[MARINE_BIOLOGY_INTERNATIONAL] Move afoot to ban "Death at SeaWorld"


(As someone whose own book on dolphins has been recently censored by Smashwords, I can relate to this story. I for one can't wait to read "Death at SeaWorld." -- Moderator MJB)

(The Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

Banning Books in the 21st Century: Is "Death At SeaWorld" Too Revealing?
Candace Calloway Whiting

For some reason there continues to be an effort to ban author David Kirby's new book, Death At SeaWorld.

The forthcoming book is reputed to examine both the risk to humans and the viability of keeping whales in captivity. By all accounts the book is well researched and documented, and although it focuses on the deaths of trainers it does so in order to point out the danger of confining large animals in relatively small space.

Now some individuals have decided that Kirby is profiting from the death of one of the people killed by the orca Tilikum, Dawn Brancheau (although Tilikum was involved in the death of three people) and therefore his book should be banned. By that logic, no one should be able to write about John Kennedy – yet new books continue to be written about his assassination decades later.

This video was recently posted, and is followed by the comment: "Let's have a book burning with all the copies?"

I wonder if kids are still expected to read Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury's novel that examines the consequences of too much TV and censorship. In the novel, firemen burn every book (451 degrees Fahrenheit is given as the temperature that paper burns), because reading makes people think for themselves…

Voice of the Orcas, a website developed by former SeaWorld trainers is a rich source of information, with a user-friendly page containing interviews by experts. They readily share their resources, and there you will learn why Kirby's book is essential in unmasking the dangers of keeping orcas in captivity, which is apparently something some folks just don't want you to know.

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(The Jewish Exponent)

Film With a Porpoise
February 29, 2012 - Michael Elkin, Arts & Entertainment Editor

Film With a Porpoise The flip side of Flipper?
Such is Dolphin Boy, the award-winning aquatic documentary making its own loud splash this weekend at the Israeli Film Festival in Philadelphia, where it will be screened on March 3, at 8:30 p.m., at the Franklin Institute.

This true moving account of Morad, a young Israeli Arab teen shattered emotionally by a tragic incident in his life, only to find an outlet for his subsequent explosion of expression through therapy with a dolphin in Eilat, is as amazing as it is ambitious.

Much of its success derives from the talented hands of writer-director-producer Dani Menkin, whose own entry into Israel's film pool has earned him kudos and acclaim for his feature Je taime, I Love You Terminal as well as his HBO/Cinemax documentary and 2006 Oscar nominee 39 Pounds of Love.

He weighs in now on Dolphin Boy, whose water world of therapy washes away the slime and soot of the young Arab's interaction with human society.

The docu is a dive into the divinity of nature and its healing powers, the bath-like balm that helps the youngster heal while still having difficulty returning to village life.

Indeed, it takes a village to restore the trust he had built up over the years, and it takes a dolphin to uncork his bottled-up animus.

And it takes a certain kind of director to channel it all. But then Menkin manned the project with another accomplished filmmaker, directing alongside Yonatin Nir.

It is a project near and dear to both their hearts, a healing swim with a dolphin that is at once a stroke of drama and a tug at the tear ducts.

"As an underwater cameraman, Yonatin was well familiar with the dolphin therapy used at the reef in Eilat," says Menkin, drawn in himself by the storyline.

He and his colleague were knowledgeable about the secret sense of serenity washing over those swimming alongside the mammals; they had done so themselves in the past. "You feel a certain energy. But it is something that is hard to explain."

They use film as interpreter. The majesty of the marine creature to help Morad ease back into the world of the living is not the only revelation unspooled over the reels: "We learn about our neighbors," Menkin says of those Arabs whose lives rarely intersect with Israeli Jews.

"Morad grew up with a father who is as devoted as a Jewish parent," as his own Jewish mom was to him, Menkin says of how stereotypes are waved away by the relationship between Morad and his dad, whose efforts to aid his son are herculean.

The film, he is proud to say, helps "humanize" people "from the other side of Israel."

It is a side worth exploring, but then, Morad is more everyboy than not. "Everybody has something in their life" that needs healing, asserts Menkin.

And this film, with its focus on nature and the natural chemistry of family love and alignment, "could take place anywhere and be about any kid."

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[MARINE_BIOLOGY_INTERNATIONAL] Filmmaker James Cameron aims to explore ocean's deepest parts


February 29th, 2012
10:48 AM ET

Filmmaker James Cameron aims to explore ocean's deepest parts

From CNN's Adam Reiss

Editor's note: Watch CNN TV this week for exclusive coverage of James Cameron's final test dives before his attempt to reach the bottom of the Mariana Trench.

Oscar winning director James Cameron, known for breaking box office records, is now aiming for underwater dominance.

The filmmaker, who's better known for his blockbuster hits such as "Titanic," is taking the dive of his life into the deepest waters in the world. He's in a race with two other men - billionaire businessman and adventurer Richard Branson and an experienced submarine pilot - to reach the Challenger Deep, the deepest known point in the world's oceans. It's part of the Mariana Trench near Guam in the western Pacific.

At more than 10,900 meters (35,800 feet), the Mariana Trench is deeper than Mount Everest is tall, and has had only two previous human visitors. In 1960, U.S. Navy Lt. Don Walsh and the late Swiss explorer Jacques Piccard descended into the deep in the bathyscaphe Trieste.

Scientists hope that Challenger Deep will provide insight into many unfamiliar life in the depths of the ocean. It is estimated that more than 750,000 marine species have not been formally described in scientific literature over the centuries, triple the number of those that have been. The figures exclude microbes, of which a 2010 census estimates there are up to 1 billion kinds.

Cameron and his team have secretly planned and plotted for five years to send the second manned vessel into the chasm. He has been conducting test deep sea dives inside his one-man submersible for several weeks.

Cameron has released little information so far about his vessel, which was built in Australia.

It's not the first adventure for Cameron, who has been a lifetime explorer of the sea - a passion that he brought to the screen in 1989 with his undersea adventure, "The Abyss," in which oceanographers find alien life at the unexplored depths of the ocean. His interest in the ocean also influenced the making of his two highest grossing movies, "Titanic" (1997) and "Avatar" (2009). In addition to his dive to the Titanic wreck, Cameron's exquisite creatures on the planet Pandora in "Avatar" were inspired by real-life sea creatures seen during his diving ventures.

He says he plans to spend six hours in the pitch-black waters on the ocean floor using remote arms to collect samples for research in marine biology, microbiology, astrobiology, marine geology and geophysics. His vehicle is decked out with advanced technology including a 3-D camera that he hopes will capture rare forms of sea life so he can turn his deep dive adventure into a movie.

Cameron's adventure is part of a competition for underwater dominance with adventure-loving Richard Branson.

The billionaire announced plans last year to explore the deepest part of the ocean with his airplane-shaped Virgin Oceanic sub.

"I am planning to go down in the Puerto Rican trench. It goes down further than Everest is high ... about 28,000 feet," Branson said last year. "There have been about 400 people who have been into space but pretty well nobody has been down and explored the big trenches in the oceans."

Patrick Lahey, the president of a small Central Florida company by the name of Triton Submarines, is also competing to reach the bottom of the Mariana Trench. He is described on his company's website as "the most experienced civil sub pilot active in the world today."

The first person to reach Challenger Deep will be awarded $10 million by the X-Prize Foundation, a nonprofit that aims to inspire and encourage radical breakthroughs that will benefit humanity.


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[MARINE_BIOLOGY_INTERNATIONAL] Airline drops dolphin flights


(Times Live)

Hong Kong airline drops dolphin flights

Feb 29, 2012 | Sapa dpa
A Hong Kong airline agreed to stop the transfer of live dolphins on its cargo planes after coming under pressure from activists and the public.

A bottlenose dolphin. File picture.
Photograph by: HO

More than 6,400 people signed an online petition after Hong Kong Airlines Ltd last week admitted flying five dolphins from Osaka, Japan, to Hanoi on January 16.

"Since it is believed that transportation of this nature can result in endangering wildlife elsewhere, Hong Kong Airlines will immediately ban shipments of this kind," the company said in a statement to animal welfare groups Wednesday.

An internal memo was leaked last week congratulating airline staff for the more than 100,000 US dollars in revenue from the transfer and showing a photo of the dolphins in narrow plastic berths on the plane.

Because the plane took off from Osaka, protesters said the dolphins probably originated from Taiji, the area featured in the Oscar-winning documentary The Cove, where dolphins are captured and slaughtered in the thousands every year.

The documentary also said the hunters sell some live dolphins to international buyers.

The airline has declined to say where the dolphins came from or were sent, citing commercial reasons. Other sources said they were believed to have gone to an aquarium or theme park in northern Vietnam.

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[MARINE_BIOLOGY_INTERNATIONAL] Re: #5,000th Member Milestone


Happy wishes upon our Marine Biology unit!

--- In MARINE_BIOLOGY_INTERNATIONAL@yahoogroups.com, Malcolm Brenner <malcolmb2@...> wrote:
> Congratulations, Gregg!
> On Feb 27, 2012, at 7:28 AM, Dr. Mann wrote:
> >
> > Sometime within the very near future, "MARINE BIOLOGY INTERNATIONAL"
> > will welcome our #5,000th member.
> >
> >
> >
> > I'd like to take this opportunity to offer my sincerest appreciation
> > to not only "M.B.I.'s" outstanding core of Moderators but to the
> > entire membership for the continued loyalty, dedication and active
> > participation which is the hallmark for our group's success over
> > these many years.
> >
> >
> >
> > Once again, my deepest gratitude to everyone for the continued
> > growth and success of "MARINE BIOLOGY INTERNATIONAL".
> >
> >
> >
> > Gregg
> >
> >

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[MARINE_BIOLOGY_INTERNATIONAL] Should dolphins and whales have rights?



Reason Magazine

Do Dolphins and Whales Have Rights?

Nick Sibilla | February 28, 2012

Last week, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), held a session on expanding rights for dolphins and whales. Since cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises) are highly intelligent animals and very social, some scientists and ethicists argued cetaceans deserve legal protections as "non-human persons." The panelists outlined a "Declaration of Rights for Cetaceans," which among other rights, would recognize whales and dolphins' right to life, an undisturbed natural environment, and the right to not be held in captivity. So say goodbye to whale sushi and SeaWorld.

To support cetacean rights, the panelists listed evidence for dolphin and whale intelligence. Scaled for size, cetacean brains are almost as big as human brains. Cetaceans can also recognize themselves in a mirror. Humans, elephants, great apes, and magpies are the only other species who have that trait. Cetaceans also communicate with each other and grieve for their dead.

Dr. Lori Mano, of Emory University and one of the co-authors of the declaration, expands on changing perceptions toward cetaceans:

Once you shift from seeing a being as a property, a commodity, a resource, to a person, an autonomous entity that has a right to life on his or her own terms, the whole framework shifts...this is not about harvesting resources, this is about murder.
Back in September 2011, A. Barton Hinkle covered many of the arguments and rebuttals to animal rights, including moral agency and marginal cases. One thinker Hinkle did not mention in his article was Murray Rothbard. In The Ethics of Liberty, Rothbard criticized the notion of animal rights, writing:

In short, man has rights because they are natural rights. They are grounded in the nature of man: the individual man's capacity for conscious choice, the necessity for him to use his mind and energy to adopt goals and values, to find out about the world, to pursue his ends in order to survive and prosper, his capacity and need to communicate and interact with other human beings and to participate in the division of labor. In short, man is a rational and social animal. No other animals or beings possess this ability to reason, to make conscious choices, to transform their environment in order to prosper, or to collaborate consciously in society and the division of labor.

For Rothbard, the act of homesteading demonstrates rationality. Since Homo sapiens can homestead, but animals can't, animals do not have rights.

While this is certainly true for many animals, the distinction between human and cetacean is not so clear-cut. Dolphins use tools to hunt, turning conch shells into traps and sea sponges into probes and protective gear. There have also been a few cases of cooperative hunting and role specialization. In addition, mother dolphins have also been seen teaching their daughters how to use these tools. Michael Krützen, a researcher at Zurich University, and one of the first observers of this behavior, has labelled this training a "cultural transmission."

More impressively, dolphins have been known to delay gratification and plan for the future. The Guardian explains how one dolphin even outsmarted humans:

At the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Mississippi, Kelly the dolphin has built up quite a reputation. All the dolphins at the institute are trained to hold onto any litter that falls into their pools until they see a trainer, when they can trade the litter for fish. In this way, the dolphins help to keep their pools clean.

Kelly has taken this task one step further. When people drop paper into the water she hides it under a rock at the bottom of the pool. The next time a trainer passes, she goes down to the rock and tears off a piece of paper to give to the trainer. After a fish reward, she goes back down, tears off another piece of paper, gets another fish, and so on. This behaviour is interesting because it shows that Kelly has a sense of the future and delays gratification. She has realised that a big piece of paper gets the same reward as a small piece and so delivers only small pieces to keep the extra food coming. She has, in effect, trained the humans.

Perhaps so long as animal rights are defined as negative rights, they can be compatible with libertarianism. David Graham, a libertarian writer and animal rights advocate, continues in this vein:

Unlike incoherent positive rights, such as the 'right' to education or health care, the animal right is, at bottom, a right to be left alone. It does not call for government to tax us in order to provide animals with food, shelter, and veterinary care. It only requires us to stop killing them and making them suffer.

Depending on the level of rationality, intelligence, and pain sensitivity an animal has, the more rights it should have. Under this ethical framework, a whale or a dolphin would more or less be the moral equivalent of a young child, the mentally handicapped, and possibly a fetus, depending on the latter's stage of development. Cetacean rights and fetal personhood advocates could become unlikely allies in the years ahead.

If cetacean rights are taken seriously, protecting whales and dolphins would mean everything from stopping whaling and ocean pollution, to developing safe havens in international waters, free from human interference. Building on the latter, some advocates even support the creation of a "cetacean nation," most prominently, John C. Lilly. A heterodox thinker, Lillly was the creator of the isolation tank and one of the pioneers in LSD experimentation and human-dolphin interspecies communication. As Lilly envisioned, a cetacean nation would formally encode protecting whales and dolphins, with the ultimate goal of gaining formal recognition by the United Nations.

Cetacean rights activists also want all whales, dolphins, and porpoises free from aquariums and theme parks. As Mike Riggs wrote a few weeks ago, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) recently tried to free killer whales from SeaWorld. PETA argued the orcas were "enslaved," which would violate the 13th Amendment. Unsurprisingly, the U.S. district court judge dismissed Tilikum v. SeaWorld for lack of standing, remarking that "the clear language and historical context reveal that only human beings, or persons, are afforded the protection of the Thirteenth Amendment."

In addition, Tilikum was not a sympathetic plaintiff: He's been involved with the deaths of three SeaWorld trainers. If Tilikum were granted personhood, wouldn't he be liable for murder? Or at the very least, manslaughter? If convicted, Tilikum would get prison time, and since he couldn't be imprisoned on land, he would serve his sentence in a tank. A tank at, say, SeaWorld.

Reason on animal rights.

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[MARINE_BIOLOGY_INTERNATIONAL] Dolphins at sea exchange greetings


(Discovery News)

When groups of dolphins meet up in the ocean sea they thoughtfully introduce themselves.

By Jennifer Viegas
Tue Feb 28, 2012 07:00 PM ET

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Bottlenose dolphins appear to engage in formal greeting ceremonies while at sea.
The ceremonies involve exchanges of signature whistles, which likely contain information such as name, sex, age, health status, intent and more.
Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) in Caribbean Sea near Roatan Island. Click to enlarge this image.
Bottlenose dolphins swap signature whistles with each other when they meet in the open sea, a new study reports, suggesting that these marine mammals engage in something akin to a human conversation.

Earlier research found that signature whistles are unique for each dolphin, with the marine mammals essentially naming themselves and communicating other basic information.

A signature dolphin whistle in human speak, might be comparable to, "Hi, I'm George, a large, three-year-old dolphin in good health who means you no harm."

BLOG: Do Dolphins Sleep Talk in Whale?

The latest study, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, is the first to show how free-ranging dolphins in the wild use these whistles at sea. The findings add to the growing body of evidence that dolphins possess one of the most sophisticated communication systems in the animal kingdom, perhaps even surpassing that of humans.

"In my mind, the term 'language' describes the human communication system; it is specific to us," co-author Vincent Janik of the University of St. Andrews Sea Mammal Research Unit, told Discovery News. "It is more fruitful to ask whether there are communication systems with similar complexity. I think the dolphin system is probably as complex as it gets among animals."

VIDEO: Dolphins Invent A New Way to Hunt fish.
Janik and colleague Nicola Quick studied how bottlenose dolphins in St. Andrews Bay, off the coast of northeast Scotland, communicate with each other. While in a small, quiet boat, the researchers followed the wild dolphins and recorded their vocalizations.

Analysis of the observations and recordings found that the dolphins usually swam together in a group moving slowly and relatively quietly.

"When another group approaches, usually one or more animals start to produce their signature whistles," Janik said. "We then hear dolphins from the other group calling back with their own signatures, and after or during this counter-calling the animals get together as one group and continue swimming together. Shortly after the union of the groups, they become much more quiet again."

NEWS: Dolphins Team Up To Get the Girl

Most animals have some sort of communication system that allows them to make similar introductions and meetings, but dolphins are unique in that they can invent and copy new sounds. This is "unlike non-human primates, who are stuck with their species-specific repertoire," he said.

The researchers also noticed that usually just one dolphin from each group would emit a signature whistle before the other group members would join the second group. This might mean that dolphins elect a "spokesman" to represent the entire group during meetings. Such an individual may be an older dolphin, Janik said, but he thinks the other dolphins are not fully silent, and may be using echolocation instead of whistles.

"We don't know whether echolocation works in this way, but it seems like a viable hypothesis," he said. "In that case, the whistle exchange is more of a greeting ceremony that communicates a friendly intention and is perhaps not needed to identify the group after the first introduction."

Dolphins at a distance may rely more upon sounds and echolocation for their communications than visual, scent and other signals. This is likely due to their marine environment and social structure. A dolphin can hear the whistle of another dolphin over a distance of about six miles and with lots of noise in the background.

Heidi Harley, a bottlenose dolphin expert who is a professor of psychology at the New College of Florida, told Discovery News that she believes the findings are key to understanding how dolphins use signature whistles.

"Now we know that dolphins in groups use signature whistles before they join each other," Harley said. "This is an important piece in the puzzle that we've been constructing about signature whistles."

She added, "I was surprised to learn that the exchanges appeared to be between only a single individual in each group."

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[MARINE_BIOLOGY_INTERNATIONAL] New paper on Bryde's whale sightings in the SCB


Dear colleagues,
We are pleased to announce the following recent publication in Aquatic Mammals.
Smultea, M.A., A. E. Douglas, C.E. Bacon, T. A. Jefferson, andL. Mazzuca. 2012. Bryde's Whale (Balaenoptera brydei/edeni) Sightings in the Southern California Bight. Aquatic Mammals 38(1), 92-97, DOI10.1578/AM.38.1.2012.92
This is a short note and does not contain an abstract.
or you can contact Cathy Bacon at cathyebacon@gmail.com
Thank you,

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[MARINE_BIOLOGY_INTERNATIONAL] Overfishing Threatens the Survival of Seabirds


LONDON — From gannets to seagulls, puffins to penguins, all seabirds suffer the same drop in birth rates when the supply of fish drops to less than a third of maximum capacity. That's the result from an international study (1) on the relationships between predators and prey in seven ecosystems around the world, published in the magazine Science and coordinated by Philippe Cury, an IRD researcher. Based on nearly 450 cumulative years of observation, the research team compared the growth in fish supplies and the reproductive patterns (2) of 14 species of coastal birds. These birds mainly feed on sardines, anchovies, herring and prawns, all of which are victims of over fishing. Below the critical level of one third of the fish biomass, the birds -- and the stability of the entire ecosystem -- come under threat.

These studies also provide a reference level for the sustainable management of fisheries, so as to safeguard the bird population, which is often imperilled, and so as to maintain the healthiness of marine environments.

From the Arctic to Antarctica and from the Atlantic to the Pacific, when the supply of fish is reduced, seabirds stop reproducing. Previous studies had uncovered the relationships between the availability of food to birds and their reproductive rates, but this new international study (1) has just made a monumental discovery. Coordinated by Philippe Cury, an IRD researcher, and published in the journal Science, the study identifies the level of a critical supply of fish below which the stability of the bird population is endangered.

Gannets, terns, puffins, seagulls and penguins: taking all the species together, if fish supplies drop below a third of their maximum size, then the number of baby birds born drops precipitously. Everywhere in the world. Once the amount of their prey falls below sufficiency, the seabirds fail to reproduce (2). Yet above this level, their reproduction rate doesn't increase. Abundance in the food supply didn't produce the expected result as other factors limit reproduction, such as the fact that nesting areas fill up quickly.

By demonstrating such a singular phenomenon, these studies validated empirically -- i.e. from data rather than from models -- that ecosystems, over the long term, obey similar laws. Until these studies were carried out, the basic principle of living ecologies remained theoretical. Now, for the first time, scientists have achieved a model of predator and prey behaviour based on actual observation in marine environments.

The research team compared almost 450 years' worth of data from all over the world to see how the supply of fish correlated with the reproduction of seabirds. To do so, the scientists concentrated on 14 species of birds in seven ecosystems around the globe. The species selected feed mainly on sardines, anchovies, herrings and other small coastline fish that fishermen regularly catch and whose populations are under pressure. Each of the ecosystems was studied for periods ranging from 15 to 40 years; and the study showed that it generally takes 13 years of data to form an accurate notion of what the maximum fish supply is in a given ecosystem.

This is the first time that so much data on the relationships between predators and prey have been brought together over such a long period of time. The scientists stressed cooperation between specialists from the north and the south made it possible to bring together such a vast quantity of information. Scores of research specialists have devoted countless years, sometimes their whole career, to these studies.

This study makes it plain that over fishing endangers the survival of higher-level predators such as birds. In fact, they are in direct competition with human fishermen: both groups consume about 80 million tonnes of fish per year. Small bait which are used to make meal and oils in fish farming -- such as sardines, anchovies, herring, smelt and capelin -- make up 30 % of today's catch worldwide. As global demand rises, these findings make it possible, at last, to achieve a standard against which to measure the sustainable management of fish, so as to sustain populations of seabirds, over the long term.

Seabird populations are one of the best ways to judge the health of marine ecosystems -- which the European Commission, for instance, wants to be able to monitor -- and are one of the easiest measurement barometers to use. These bird species are among the most endangered, owing to the lack of food but also to climate change and the destruction of coastal habitats where, once again, they are in competition with humans for space along the water's edge.

In order to understand the dynamics of ecosystems, it is essential to determine the key relationships between predators and prey. International authorities today have few tools by which to gauge and restrict fishing. The limit of one third of the fish population set forth by this study may not be a hard number in all cases, but it can certainly serve as a guideline for fishery management policies.

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[MARINE_BIOLOGY_INTERNATIONAL] Tsunami debris could reach N. America


Tsunami debris could reach N. America

Feb 28, 2012 10:36 AM EST

HONOLULU (AP) - Tsunamis generated by the magnitude-9 earthquake in Japan last March dragged 3 million to 4 million tons of debris into the ocean after tearing up Japanese harbors and homes.

Scientists believe ocean currents are carrying some of the lumber, refrigerators, fishing boats and other objects across the Pacific toward the United States.

One to 5 percent of the 1 million to 2 million tons of debris still in the ocean may reach Hawaii, Alaska, Oregon and Washington and British Columbia, said University of Hawaii senior researcher and ocean current expert Nikolai Maximenko.

That's only a portion of the 20 million to 25 million tons of debris the tsunamis generated altogether, including what was left on land.

Maximenko plans to discuss Tuesday at a news conference his latest estimates for where the debris is and when it may wash ashore. Last year, his team estimated debris could arrive in Hawaii in early 2013.

Some debris appears to have already arrived in the U.S., like a half-dozen large buoys suspected to be from Japanese oyster farms found in Alaska late last year.

Nicholas Mallos, conservation biologist and marine debris specialist for the Ocean Conservancy, said many of the objects are expected to be from Japan's fishing industry. The conservancy is hosting the news conference.

Fishing gear could harm wildlife, such as endangered Hawaiian monk seals, if it washes up on coral reefs or beaches.

"The major question is how much of that material has sank since last year, and how much of that remains afloat or still in the water column," Mallos said.

It's unclear whether items like refrigerators will make it across because there's little precedent for such things in the ocean.

Computer models created by the University of Hawaii indicate the debris is spread far apart across thousands of miles from the eastern coast of Japan to an area some 1,000 miles north of the Hawaiian Islands.

"The debris field is largely dispersed over a large area. And because of that dispersion, we can no longer rely on satellite imagery to track the debris," Mallos said.

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[MARINE_BIOLOGY_INTERNATIONAL] Coral Reef Study Traces Indirect Effects of Overfishing


Santa Cruz, CA — A study of the tropical coral reef system along the coastline of Kenya has found dramatic effects of overfishing that could threaten the long-term health of the reefs. Led by scientists at the University of California, Santa Cruz, the study was published in the journal Coral Reefs.

The researchers found that the loss of predatory fish leads to a cascade of effects throughout the reef ecosystem, starting with an explosion in sea urchin populations. Excessive grazing by sea urchins damages the reef structure and reduces the extent of a poorly studied but crucially important component of the reefs known as crustose coralline algae. Coralline algae deposit calcium carbonate in their cell walls and form a hard crust on the substrates where they grow, helping to build and stabilize reefs. They also play a crucial role in the life cycle of corals.

"Some coralline algae produce a chemical that induces coral settlement, in which the larval stage in the water settles on the ocean floor to grow into an adult. This settlement must happen for reefs to recover after disturbance," said lead author Jennifer O'Leary, a research associate with the Institute of Marine Sciences at UC Santa Cruz.

The ability of coralline algae to induce the settlement of coral larvae has been well studied in the laboratory, but few studies have been done to investigate this relationship in the field. O'Leary set out to study the role of coralline algae in reef ecosystems as a UCSC graduate student working with Donald Potts, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and a coauthor of the paper.

In Kenya, O'Leary teamed up with Tim McClanahan, a UCSC alumnus who now heads the Wildlife Conservation Society's marine programs in Kenya. The researchers compared the types of coralline algae and the number of juvenile corals on Kenyan reefs under three different management conditions: closed, gear-restricted, and open access. On fished reefs (both those open to all fishing and those with gear restrictions), sea urchin populations were much higher than on closed reefs, resulting in lower abundance of crustose coralline algae and lower coral densities.

"Outside the protected areas, we're seeing the ecosystem collapse," O'Leary said. "When you look at the effects of fishing, you can't just think about the species that are being removed. You have to look at how the effects are carried down through the ecosystem."

Most of the young corals found in the surveys were growing on crustose coralline algae. Juveniles of four common coral families were more abundant on coralline algae than on any other settlement substrate. The results suggest that fishing can indirectly reduce coral recruitment or the success of juvenile corals by reducing the abundance of settlement-inducing coralline algae.

"The loss of crustose coralline algae has huge implications for regeneration of coral reefs," O'Leary said. "In our surveys, we found no difference between gear-restricted areas and fully fished areas, so gear restrictions are not working to keep urchin populations down. We need to consider ecosystem-wide effects as we develop new management strategies."

Potts said he hopes the new study will raise awareness of the role that coralline algae play in the health of coral reefs, especially in developing countries. "Most managers and conservationists, and even many scientists, are unaware of the existence, abundance, and importance of coralline algae, so management regimes intended to enhance the health of reefs may actually be detrimental," he said.

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[MARINE_BIOLOGY_INTERNATIONAL] Land-Ocean Connections: Scientists Discover How Tree Trunks, Leaves and Kukui Nu


Moloka'i, HI - Scientists from the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) at the University of Hawaii -- Manoa (UHM) and colleagues recently discovered that land-based plant material and coastal macroalgae indirectly support the increased abundances of bottom fish in submarine canyons, like those off the north shore of Moloka'i. Less than a few miles from the shore, these underwater canyons connect to deep river valleys that cut across the landscape of north Moloka'i. The high elevation and forested landscapes along Moloka'i's north shore provide plant material, including decomposing tree trunks, leaves and tons of kukui nuts, which enter the ocean via river valleys and 'pile up' on submarine canyon floors.

"In areas surrounded by very low productivity waters, this steady supply of organic matter to the canyons supports relatively high abundances of macro-invertebrates that live associated with the seafloor (either on top or in the top layers within the sediments), such as polychaete worms (related to earth worms), tiny crustaceans (amphipods, tanaids and isopods) and mollusks (like tiny clam- and snail-like creatures). Those invertebrates in turn serve as food for many fish species that live and feed near the seafloor," says Fabio De Leo, lead author and PhD candidate at the UHM Department of Oceanography. "Areas surveyed outside the canyons showed very little contribution of plant and macroalgae material, providing support for our hypothesis that this material is really being channeled and accumulates mostly in the steep topography of the submarine canyons (i.e., a 'canyon effect')," completes De Leo.

De Leo, his PhD advisor (Dr. Craig Smith), colleagues from SOEST (Dr. Jeff Drazen), from the Hawaii Pacific University (Dr. Eric Vetter), and from the New Zealand National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (Dr. Ashley Rowden) used manned submersibles operated by the Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory to perform numerous video transects in two submarine canyons off Moloka'i at depths ranging from 350 to 1,050 m (~1,000 to ~3,000 ft). Equipped with high-definition cameras and powerful light strobes the submersibles flew above the seafloor to quantitatively assess the presence of plant and macroalgae material and to count and identify all fish species.

This was among the first studies to quantitatively survey fish assemblages deeper than ~350 m around Hawaii, gathering more than 13 hours of video altogether. Among the most abundant species found were the so-called 'rattail' fishes (family Macrouridae) and the 'eel-like' fishes (synaphobranchids and halosaurs). Giant shark specimens were also observed but only when the submersible was stationary and not during the video transects. Therefore, that species was not included in the quantitative analysis. De Leo narrates how scary it was when he got 'face-to-face' with a 10-foot 'sixgill shark' with only the submersible's porthole separating his from the shark's nose, as the giant approached the submersible and hit the thick glass window with its face. "Wow, it was definitely a nerve-wracking sensation. I even dropped my video camera while trying to make good footage of the beast."

The researchers also report some unexpected results. They found that this 'canyon effect' of enhancing fish abundances is obliterated at intermediate depths (around 650 m) coinciding exactly with the core of an oxygen minimum zone (OMZ) that flows around the Hawaiian archipelago around those depths. An OMZ is a layer of seawater usually at subsurface that has depleted oxygen concentrations due to several biological and chemical processes, including excess respiration by microbes. This may be indicating that the bottom fish species are somewhat sensitive to the low oxygen concentrations in the water. This result corroborates previous studies that found low abundances and diversity of deep-sea scavenger animals at similar depths around Hawaii. "The expansion of OMZs in different parts of the oceans is of great concern among oceanographers, and it is thought to be one of the main effects related to climate/ocean warming." De Leo attended the annual Ocean Sciences Meeting in Salt Lake City last week and reports that the expansion of these low oxygen ocean layers was one of the hot topics discussed at the meeting. "We should definitely keep track of near future and long term effects of expansion of low oxygen zones and how this will affect a variety of marine organisms, including fish."

In hopes of understanding what other factors lead to an increase in the number and diversity of marine animals inside these abrupt topographic features, De Leo and colleagues are analyzing data on the abundance and diversity of macro-invertebrates that live associated with the seafloor in six other submarine canyons around Hawaii. There is an increasing body of evidence that suggests that canyons are a special type of topographic feature in the seafloor no matter in what oceanographic background they are located (i.e., highly productive continental margins or in a low productivity setting, such as an island margin like Hawaii). "With the goal of protecting ecologically important habitat and preserving biodiversity, this information is crucial when performing marine spatial planning and designing networks of Marine Protected Areas," says De Leo.

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