[MARINE_BIOLOGY_INTERNATIONAL] Oil-skimming robot developed


(Popular Mechanics)

FIRST Team Builds an Oil-Skimming Robot
Kell Robotics competing in the FIRST robotics championship this weekend, but the team members also have built an oil-skimming bot to clean up streams and estuaries.


Kell Robotics came to the FIRST championship to put its basketball-playing robot to the test. But the team members brought along another of their clever creations: a model of their robot that could one day clean up streams.

In response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that began April 20, 2010, the team from Marietta, Ga., designed a remote-control, oil-skimming robot it calls ORCA, or Oil Recovery and Capture. The ORCA model on display at the FIRST championship in St. Louis, which is one-third the size of the real deal, looks a little like a tank with a long, wide conveyer belt projecting from the front, and a black-and-white design reminiscent of a killer whale.

Carlie Schulter, a Kell High School senior and the team's executive director, says the robot skims oil from shallow water with a rotating polyurethane belt that repels water but attracts oil. It then deposits the oil into the empty receptacle that makes up the body of the robot. The robot's water-friendly internal tread allows it to maneuver over obstacles such as driftwood, and movable flotation devices help it make depth adjustments. A solar panel on top recharges the robot at half the rate it expends energy.

Lemelson-MIT, a program that supports inventors, gave Kell Robotics an initial grant of $10,000 to work on the ORCA design. It named Kell Robotics one of its InvenTeams—research teams made up of high school students. In February, Schulter and teammate Matthew Tompkins were among about 100 students invited to the White House Science Fair to present their ideas.

The next step for the team is to build a training simulator for potential ORCA pilots, Schulter says. At the moment, ORCA pilots could potentially steer it from a half-mile away; the team would like to stretch that to 2 miles. ORCA won first place for student models and simulations at last year's Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference in Orlando, Fla.

Although the government hasn't implemented ORCA's design, Schulter says Kell Robotics has stayed in contact with the EPA. For now, she says, "we plan on using it as a teaching tool." The team also created Corky, a robot that removes debris from standing water. Schulter says Kell Robotics has a standing invitation to use Corky at Lake Clara Meer in Atlanta's Piedmont Park.

This weekend's national FIRST competition was fun and games for Kell, but their other projects show they're serious about tackling some tough problems. Now that FIRST 2012 is over, Kell's team hopes to focus on finishing assembling the ORCA and to start testing it in an estuary by this summer.

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[MARINE_BIOLOGY_INTERNATIONAL] "Bullied" dolphin hides from tormentors?


(Christian Science Monitor)

The Christian Science Monitor - CSMonitor.com
Bullied dolphin hides from tormentors near Huntington Beach (+video)

A dolphin nicknamed 'Freddie,' spent the weekend swimming in shallow waters near Huntington Beach, in the Bolsa Chica wetlands. When the dolphin tried to leave, a pod of dolphins chased him back toward shore.

A dolphin, nicknamed 'Freddie,' swims in Orange County's Bolsa Chica wetlands near Huntington Beach, Calif., Marine mammal experts have decided to wait and see whether this dolphin that strayed into the shallow wetlands channel last Friday can find its way out.
((AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes))

By Stephen Ceasar and Bob Pool, Los Angeles Times
posted April 30, 2012 at 3:51 pm EDT

Los Angeles
Rescue crews who tried unsuccessfully over the weekend to guide a confused dolphin from the shallow waters of Orange County's Bolsa Chica wetlands decided Monday to hang back and allow the dolphin to return to the open sea at its own pace.

On Friday, human spectators scared the dolphin into staying in the wetlands, wildlife officials said. And on Saturday, another group of dolphins chased the stranded marine animal back into the wetlands as rescuers attempted to guide it back to the open sea.

Because the dolphin is not in immediate danger and there is plenty of food and water available in the wetlands, rescuers believe letting it decide when to leave is the best strategy, said Peter Wallerstein of Marine Animal Rescue.

IN PICTURES: 20 Weirdest Fish in the Sea

"We're being very cautious about forcing it into harm's way," he said.

Wallerstein and five state Department of Fish and Game officers took to paddle boards Saturday morning to encourage the 7-foot dolphin to continue swimming to freedom after they noticed that it had swum several hundred yards closer to Huntington Harbour, which spills into the ocean.

The six paddleboarders managed to shoo the dolphin a few hundred yards closer to the harbor when the animal noticed another group of dolphins swimming in circles ahead of it.

Apparently frightened, the wayward dolphin turned around and dived deep into the harbor, swimming beneath the paddle-boarders and a bridge and back into the wetlands.

"There could be tension among the dolphin pod and dolphins can be very aggressive, even among themselves," he said.

Wallerstein also urged spectators to keep away from the dolphin so it does not become distracted or confused by people along the shoreline.

The dolphin is believed to be one of six that swam into the wetlands early last week. The other dolphins are believed to have returned to sea Thursday.

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[MARINE_BIOLOGY_INTERNATIONAL] Taiji to create "whale research cove"


Wakayama town eyes creating giant whale pool at cove
Jiji Press

TAIJI, Wakayama (Jiji Press)--The town of Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture, plans to make part of its cove a huge pool where people can swim and kayak among small whales and dolphins.

The town, known for its annual dolphin hunt, aims to officially launch the project within five years after negotiating with the prefectural government, which manages the bay, and pearl farmers operating there. "We've never heard of such an attempt elsewhere," an official at the Fisheries Agency said. The plan, compiled by a local panel of residents, calls for creating a pool with an area of roughly 28 hectares by putting up a net on the entrance of Moriura Bay in northwestern Taiji.

Black whales and bottlenose dolphins caught near the town are to be released into the pool, which would be developed as a natural park that also includes beaches and mudflats. The town government will consider whether it is possible to raise large whales as well. The town also intends to use the park for therapy and ecological research. It hopes to make the area a center for whale research by inviting research institutions from outside as well.

The plan is part of efforts to make the whole town a natural museum that will allow people to learn about whales, including the culture and history of whale hunting.

(May. 1, 2012)

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A ProMED-mail post
ProMED-mail is a program of the
International Society for Infectious Diseases <http://www.isid.org>

Date: 28 Apr 2012
Source: Appeal-Democrat.com [edited]

Ellis Lake appears to be experiencing a new outbreak of avian botulism, Marysville police said Saturday [28 Apr 2012].

The police and public works departments have responded to multiple calls of dead and dying ducks around the lake in the last week, police said in a statement.

Avian botulism is a toxin that affects the central nervous system and causes gradual paralysis so that birds cannot hold their heads up and often drown. The toxin is not uncommon in the area, and it tends to be widespread in areas with an overpopulation of ducks, police said.
Warmer weather is a precursor of the toxin, but the toxin does not reflect the water quality.

Algae, especially algae rotting in high temperatures, is what usually leads to avian botulism outbreaks, according to the U.S. Geological Service. Reducing available oxygen, the vegetation helps kill off animals and invertebrates, allowing the botulism bacteria to activate and produce toxins.

Often, dead ducks provide the protein source for maggots that carry the toxin, and the maggots are then eaten by ducks to perpetuate the botulism cycle.

In June and July 2010, more than 30 dead ducks were spotted at the lake, with botulism believed to be the cause.

At the time, city officials said Ellis Lake has an inherent duck problem, as waterfowl arrive during migration and stay because people feed them. The lake, primarily fed by storm drains and no fresh water, is not that clean to begin with, and the high duck population worsens the situation.

In years past, the city relocated some waterfowl from Ellis Lake to keep existing populations healthy and to keep the flocks from becoming a nuisance. But the procedure, which requires trapping, transporting and releasing the animals, is labor-intensive.

Budget cutbacks in recent years also have minimized the amount of clean water the city pumps in and the frequency with which it is pumped. It would take roughly 30 days of constant pumping to change the existing water, city officials have said.

Police and public works are removing the dead ducks from the water and shoreline when located. Anyone who sees a dead or dying duck at Ellis Lake should call the Marysville Police Department at 749-3900.

[Byline: Ashley Gebb/ADagebb]

Communicated by:
ProMED-mail from HealthMap alerts

[Avian botulism is a paralytic disease caused by ingestion of a toxin produced by the bacteria, _Clostridium botulinum_. This bacteria is widespread in soil and requires warm temperatures, a protein source and an anaerobic (no oxygen) environment in order to become active and produce toxin. Decomposing vegetation and invertebrates combined with warm temperatures can provide ideal conditions for the botulism bacteria to activate and produce toxin. There are several types of toxin produced by strains of _C. botulinum_; birds are most commonly affected by type C and to a lesser extent type E.

Birds either ingest the toxin directly or may eat invertebrates (e.g.
chironomids, fly larvae) containing the toxin. Invertebrates are not affected by the toxin and store it in their body. A cycle develops in a botulism outbreak when fly larvae (maggots) feed on animal carcasses and ingest toxin. Ducks and other birds that consume toxin-laden maggots can develop botulism after eating as few as 3 or 4 maggots.

Healthy birds, affected birds, and dead birds in various stages of decay are commonly found in the same area. The toxin affects the nervous system by preventing impulse transmission to muscles. Birds are unable to use their wings and legs normally or control the 3rd eyelid, neck muscles, and other muscles. Birds with paralyzed neck muscles cannot hold their heads up and often drown. Death can also result from water deprivation, electrolyte imbalance, respiratory failure, or predation.

Prompt removal and proper disposal of carcasses by burial or burning (in accordance with applicable ordinances) is highly effective in removing toxin and maggot sources from the environment. If possible, avoid altering water depth by flooding or drawing down water levels during hot weather. This may increase invertebrate and fish die-offs, a protein source for the bacteria.

Providing mildly affected birds with fresh water, shade and protection from predators may help them recover from the intoxication. Botulism antitoxin is available but requires special handling and must be given early in the intoxication. Birds that survive a botulism outbreak are NOT immune to botulism toxin.

Portions of this comment were extracted from:

Ellis Lake, California may be found on the interactive HealthMap at:
<http://healthmap.org/r/2h_t>. - Mod.TG]

[see also:
Botulism, avian - USA (05): (CA) 20111115.3369 Botulism, avian - USA (04): (NV) 20111009.3031 Botulism, avian - USA (03): (CO) 20110925.2905 Botulism, avian - USA (02): (CO) 20110924.2888 Botulism, avian - USA: (CO) 20110914.2797 2010
Botulism, avian - USA (05): (FL) susp. 20100817.2848 Botulism, avian - USA (04): (OH) 20100718.2407 Botulism, avian - USA (03): (CA) 20100709.2294 Botulism, avian - USA (02): (CO) 20100627.2145 Botulism, avian - USA: (MI) susp 20100618.2047] .................................................sb/tg/msp/lm/ll
ProMED-mail makes every effort to verify the reports that are posted, but the accuracy and completeness of the
information, and of any statements or opinions based
thereon, are not guaranteed. The reader assumes all risks in
using information posted or archived by ProMED-mail. ISID
and its associated service providers shall not be held responsible for errors or omissions or held liable for any damages incurred as a result of use or reliance upon posted or archived material.

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[MARINE_BIOLOGY_INTERNATIONAL] Iceland takes aim at fin whales


(Icelandic Review Online)

30.04.2012 | 08:00
Fin Whaling Said Likely to Resume in Iceland
Skessuhorn, a regional newspaper in west Iceland, states that according to "reliable sources" it is very likely that commercial fin whale hunting will resume in the region in June and that a three-month season is planned.

A slain fin whale. CEO of Hvalur Kristján Loftsson (left) and former Minister of Fisheries Einar Kr. Guðfinnsson. Copyright: Icelandic Photo Agency.

Whaling was canceled last season due to the difficult situation on the Japanese market following the natural disasters that hit the country in 2011.

However, Kristján Loftsson, CEO of whaling company Hvalur, would not confirm the news to skessuhorn.is. He prefers to not discuss whaling in the media, he said.

To Fréttablaðið, Kristján said nothing had been decided regarding fin whaling this summer. "Hopefully it can happen and it hasn't been ruled out but nothing has been decided. Skessuhorn is making up news at home to service anti-whaling activists abroad."

According to Skessuhorn, Kristján was recently in Japan to meet potential buyers of fin whale products where local whalers have reportedly not been successful in the past few months.

The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) issued a press release in response to the news, urging European and US leaders to take strong diplomatic actions to end Iceland's "continued and expanding" whaling.

Clare Perry, EIA senior campaigner, said: "Iceland has exported almost 2,000 tons of whale meat to Japan in recent years. The Icelandic whaling company Hvalur is deliberately growing an export market for an endangered species which is protected by two international agreements to which Iceland is signatory. We are calling on the EU and US to take urgent steps to end this rogue whaling."

Iceland has engaged in commercial whaling for years in defiance of the international moratorium agreed to by the International Whaling Commission in 1982, the press release added.

Hvalur has an annual quota of 150-170 fin whales. Iceland's annual minke whale hunt is also expected to resume soon, with a quota of 216.

Click here to read more about whaling in Iceland.


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[MARINE_BIOLOGY_INTERNATIONAL] Google checks out Icelandic fishing operations


(Icelandic Review Online)

29.04.2012 | 14:00
Google to Monitor Fishing in Icelandic Waters?
A delegation from the internet giant Google is expected to come to Iceland in the next two to three months to learn about an Icelandic IT system used to monitor fishing. The possibility to link it to Google Earth is being looked into.

(Fishing in Iceland. Copyright: Icelandic Photo Agency.)

President of Iceland Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson told Morgunblaðið that he met Google representatives at an international congress in Singapore in February after giving a speech on the world's oceans.

In his speech he described how Icelanders have been successful in developing a monitoring system for fishing and in using IT to contribute to a responsible and sustainable fishing industry.

"We had informative and useful discussions on whether the technology developed by Icelandic companies, for example Trackwell, could be connected with Google's technological development, especially Google Earth," Ólafur said.

"If one could connect the two we might possibly have a basis for developing an international monitoring system with fishing and the sailing course of all fishing vessels all over the world," he continued, adding he is confident that IT is key to counteracting overfishing.

According to the president, finding a good date for Google's visit is now being worked on. In Iceland its delegation would meet with representatives of Icelandic IT companies and companies and institutions involved with the fishing industry.

"I find this a great recognition for Icelandic IT companies and the system we have developed here. If we get recruitment from Google Earth in this matter—which has achieved world recognition in this field—it would be a huge step," Ólafur concluded.


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[MARINE_BIOLOGY_INTERNATIONAL] Epic gray whale migration off Alaska


(Alaska Dispatch)

Epic gray whale migration reaches Seward, Kodiak and the Bering Sea
Doug O'Harra | Apr 29, 2012

They exhaled heart-shaped blows visible for 1,000 yards across the green-hued sea. They rolled and they breached, waggled five-foot pectoral fins at the sky and sometimes seemed to cavort in Kodiak's chilly surf.

The vanguard of the world's greatest cetacean migration has overtaken Southcentral Alaska in earnest, with multiple sightings of gray whales snatched over the past weekend near Kodiak and Seward — as well as a few satellites placing forward scouts along the ice edge inside the Bering Sea.

"The monumental migration continues with high numbers and wonderful stories in this best-ever season!" reported the latest gray whale update by the educational website Journey North. "Adults are plowing past Alaska; moms and babies are streaming up the coast, some blowing bubbles!"

Kodiak whale watchers worked the beaches over the weekend, while tourists and locals took cruises to the mouth of Resurrection Bay to catch a glimpse of the gray armada as it passed.

"While many of the whales were offshore quite a bit, several were seen in the surf zone closer to shore," reported the Kodiak Whale Fest Sightings blog, which included this Facebook movie of blows on the sea.

"The gray whales are here!" added Dee Buchanon, marketing director with the mother company of Kenai Fjords Tours, in an email message about last weekend's cruises to the mouth of Resurrection Bay. "We also saw humpback whales. Sea lions, sea otters, Dall's porpoise, eagles, cormorants, murre, mountain goats were also common sightings. Black oyster catchers and harbor seals have also been sighted, but not as frequently as the whales."

The grays are one of the most commonly sighted large whales in coastal Alaska, an element of Native lore and a mainstay of modern tourism. The 1988 rescue of three gray whales from sea ice off Alaska's Arctic coast also inspired the new movie, Big Miracle. These baleen cetaceans can grow up to 50 feet in length and 40 tons in weight on a diet of crustaceans and clams sifted from sea-bottom muck.

Almost driven to extinction by 19th century whaling, the eastern Pacific population has since recovered and may number as many as 20,000 animals. Their 10,000-mile round-trip — which brings them to southern Alaska every April — may be the longest known annual migration by any mammal. Their range covers almost the entire west coast of North America.

When their seasonal jaunt overtakes Kodiak — perhaps half way through the extraordinary swim toward the Chukchi Sea — winter-weary islanders put on the 10-day Kodiak Whale Fest with films, lectures, performances, hikes, a shark dissection and guided trips to good whale watching spots. Activities run through Monday.

Kodiak whale watchers began reporting the first scouts more than two weeks ago, with migrants "playing in the surf" at Surfer Beach and traversing Ugak Strait, according to the Kodiak Whalefest sightings page. Early Sunday morning — the Whale Fest's first weekend — another 10 grays were spied swimming through Ugak Strait and another 15 off Surfer Beach.

"It was during an extremely low tide and the whales were quite a distance from the shore, but viewing was great!," reported one of the volunteer whale bloggers. "We spotted a few backs and even a flipper or two. … Later in the afternoon, there were reports of three orcas in the harbor area...doing what they normally do this time of year — pursuing sea lions."

Western gray whale Varvara on the move
Among the gray whales making particularly dramatic moves was a 9-year-old female from the critically endangered population that summers in the far western Pacific Ocean. Nicknamed Varvara, the whale was one of six western grays tagged with tracking devices last summer, and the only one still transmitting. (Journey North offers its own Varvara primer.)

During March and April, Varvara cruised up the Pacific Northwest and Alaska coasts — skirting Southeast islands and the entrances to Prince William Sound and Cook Inlet along the way. Between April 1 and 8, the whale swam past Kayak Island southeast of Cordova, kissed the outer coast of Kodiak before swimming to False Pass on the Alaska Peninsula.

Then the animal zipped into the Bering Sea, and by April 22, Varvara had reached the ice edge and was cruising steadily west toward her mating grounds in the Russian Far East, according to the latest update by the Marine Mammal Institute at Oregon State University.

"We're excited, too, about Varvara. … She's still plowing northward, through chunks of floating ice," reported Journey North update. "Go, Varvara!"

Tracking the signs of spring
Journey North follows the northward movement American Robins, monarch butterflies and a few other critters and plants, relying on volunteer spotters and school children for most updates. Tracking the eastern Pacific's gray whale migration toward Alaska's Arctic seas may be the organization's marquee event, drawing on dispatches from Southern California to the Aleutian Chain.

Even as the forward wave of grays passed southern Alaska into the Bering Sea, Journey North continued to log detailed reports from the California coast.

"We've seen 87 cow/calf pairs — and a total of 417 adults and juveniles — since we began counting our 19th annual census on March 26," reported biologist Wayne Perryman in the update for Point Piedras Blancas on April 23.

And an Earth Day report from Santa Barbara Channel:

"It was another Super Sunday: 27 northbound gray whales, including 13 calves," posted Michael Smith of Gray Whales Count. "What a rush this has been. We have counted a lot of calves in a short period of time, and they have been almost charging through the Channel. No dilly-dallying for this crowd."

Contact Doug at doug(at)alaskadispatch.com.

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[MARINE_BIOLOGY_INTERNATIONAL] Pacific Islands On Equator May Become Refuge for Corals in a Warming Climate Due


Woods Hole, MA — Scientists have predicted that ocean temperatures will rise in the equatorial Pacific by the end of the century, wreaking havoc on coral reef ecosystems. But a new study shows that climate change could cause ocean currents to operate in a surprising way and mitigate the warming near a handful of islands right on the equator. As a result these Pacific islands may become isolated refuges for corals and fish.

Here's how it would happen, according to the study by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution scientists Kristopher Karnauskas and Anne Cohen, published April 29 in the journal Nature Climate Change.

At the equator, trade winds push a surface current from east to west. About 100 to 200 meters below, a swift countercurrent develops, flowing in the opposite direction. This, the Equatorial Undercurrent (EUC), is cooler and rich in nutrients. When it hits an island, like a rock in a river, water is deflected upward on the island's western flank and around the islands. This well-known upwelling process brings cooler water and nutrients to the sunlit surface, creating localized areas where tiny marine plants and corals flourish.

On color-enhanced satellite maps showing measurements of global ocean chlorophyll levels, these productive patches of ocean stand out as bright green or red spots, for example around the Galapagos Islands in the eastern Pacific.

But as you look west, chlorophyll levels fade like a comet tail, giving scientists little reason to look closely at scattered low-lying coral atolls farther west. The islands are easy to overlook because they are tiny, remote, and lie at the far left edge of standard global satellite maps that place continents in the center.

Karnauskas, a climate scientist, was working with WHOI coral scientist Anne Cohen to explore how climate change would affect central equatorial Pacific reefs.

When he changed the map view on his screen in order to see the entire tropical Pacific at once, he saw that chlorophyll concentrations jumped up again exactly at the Gilbert Islands on the equator. Satellite maps also showed cooler sea surface temperatures on the west sides of these islands, part of the nation of Kiribati.

"I've been studying the tropical Pacific Ocean for most of my career, and I had never noticed that," he said. "It jumped out at me immediately, and I thought, 'there's probably a story there.'"

So Karnauskas and Cohen began to investigate how the EUC would affect the equatorial islands' reef ecosystems, starting with global climate models that simulate impacts in a warming world.

Global-scale climate models predict that ocean temperatures will rise nearly 3oC (5.4oF) in the central tropical Pacific. Warmer waters often cause corals to bleach, a process in which they lose the tiny symbiotic algae that life in them and provide them with vital nutrition. Bleaching has been a major cause of coral mortality and loss of coral reef area during the last 30 years.

But even the best global models, with their planet-scale views and lower resolution, cannot predict conditions in areas as small as small islands, Karnauskas said.

So they combined global models with a fine-scale regional model to focus on much smaller areas around minuscule islands scattered along the equator. To accommodate the trillions of calculations needed for such small-area resolution, they used the new high-performance computer cluster at WHOI called "Scylla."

"Global models predict significant temperature increase in the central tropical Pacific over the next few decades, but in truth conditions can be highly variable across and around a coral reef island," Cohen said. "To predict what the coral reef will experience under global climate change, we have to use high-resolution models, not global models.

Their model predicts that as air temperatures rise and equatorial trade winds weaken, the Pacific surface current will also weaken by 15 percent by the end of the century. The then-weaker surface current will impose less friction and drag on the EUC, so this deeper current will strengthen by 14 percent.

"Our model suggests that the amount of upwelling will actually increase by about 50 percent around these islands and reduce the rate of warming waters around them by about 0.7oC (1.25oF) per century," Karnauskas said.

A handful of coral atolls on the equator, some as small as 4 square kilometers (1.54 square miles) in area, may not seem like much. But Karnauskas's and Cohen's results say waters on the western sides of the islands will warm more slowly than at islands 2 degrees (or 138 miles) north and south of the equator that are not in the way of the EUC. That gives the Gilbert Islands a significant advantage over neighboring reef systems, they said.

"While the mitigating effect of a strengthened Equatorial Undercurrent will not spare the corals the perhaps-inevitable warming expected for this region, the warming rate will be slower around these equatorial islands, which may allow corals and their symbiotic algae a better chance to adapt and survive," Karnauskas said. If the model holds true, then even if neighboring reefs are hard hit, equatorial island coral reefs may well survive to produce larvae of corals and other reef species. Like a seed bank for the future, they might be a source of new corals and other species that could re-colonize damaged reefs.

"The globe is warming, but there are things going on underfoot that will slow that warming for certain parts of certain coral reef islands," said Cohen.

"These little islands in the middle of the ocean can counteract global trends and have a big impact on their own future, which I think is a beautiful concept," Karnauskas said.

"The finding that there may be refuges in the tropics where local circulation features buffer the trend of rising sea surface temperature has important implications for the survival of coral reef systems," said David Garrison, program director in the National Science Foundation (NSF)'s Division of Ocean Sciences, which funded the research.

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[MARINE_BIOLOGY_INTERNATIONAL] Peru examines deaths of more than 500 Pelicans


PERU - The government of Peru is investigating the deaths of more than 500 pelicans along a 70km (40-mile) stretch of the country's northern coast.

Officials say most appeared to have died on shore over the past few days.

Scientists have also found the carcasses of 54 boobies, several sea lions and a turtle.

They were found in the same region where some 800 dolphins washed ashore earlier this year. The cause of their death is still being investigated.

The Peruvian government said it was "deeply worried".

A preliminary report said that there was no evidence to show the pelicans had died at sea, but rather on the beach where they were found.

But it said further tests would be needed to establish the cause of death.

The Peruvian Maritime (Imarpe) said so far 538 dead pelicans and 54 boobies had been found in various stages of decomposition, although most appeared to have died recently.

In addition, five badly decomposed sea lions and a turtle carcass had been found on shore, Imarpe said.

Local media reports suggest more than 1,200 dead pelicans have been found in the Piura and Lambayeque regions.

Between January and April of this year, some 800 dead dolphins washed ashore in Lambayeque, according to government figures.

Peru's Deputy Minister for Natural Resource Development, Gabriel Quijandria Acosta, said a virus might have killed the dolphins.

A viral epidemic outbreak was linked to similar deaths of marine wildlife in Peru in the past, as well as in Mexico and the United States.

Imarpe scientists said results of tests carried out on the dead dolphins would be released in the coming days.

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[MARINE_BIOLOGY_INTERNATIONAL] Experts call for Basking Shark awareness


LONDON - Marine experts are calling on the public to report sightings of basking sharks in UK waters this summer.

The sharks are drawn to warm, plankton-rich surface waters off the west coast of Great Britain and Ireland.

These huge sharks are harmless, but experts are also asking people to "keep a respectful distance and enjoy the spectacle".

Basking sharks are protected under European and UK law, so it is illegal to disturb or harass them.

Basking sharks are the second largest fish in the sea; they have a jaw one metre wide and can filter plankton from 1,500 cubic litres of sea water every hour.

A great white shark can smell a seal colony from two miles away
The hammerhead sharks' distinctively shaped head is thought to enhance both its vision and its sensitivity to electrical signals.

Watch the immense power and agility of a breaching great white shark
"They're here for most of the summer," said Dr David Gibson, managing director of the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth. "We're asking people to let us know whenever they see one of these fantastic animals.

Basking sharks are the ocean's second biggest fish, measuring up to seven metres in length.

A large adult male can have a dorsal fin up to 1.5m high, which protrudes from the water when the fish are feeding at the surface.

"We'd also like people to take photographs if they can," said Dr Gibson.

"These animals live for between 30 and 40 years, so [with photos] we might be able to identify individuals that are returning to UK waters."

Researchers at the aquarium also use photographs to spot any signs of damage to sharks' fins that could indicate where the fish might be "coming into conflict" with fisheries.

The sharks visit British and Irish shores as the warming sea surface creates "a healthy soup of nutrient-rich seawater around our coastline". Miniature plants that bloom in the sun-warmed water attract tiny marine animals, or zooplankton. This, in turn, attracts the basking sharks.

It is difficult to predict exactly when and where these plankton banquets will occur, but experts say that hot-spots for shark sightings are the south-west of England, the Isle of Man, south and west Ireland and the Firth of Clyde on the west coast of Scotland.

To allow people to observe the sharks without disturbing them, the Shark Trust has published a code of conduct to be followed in any basking shark encounter.

There are separate checklists for swimmers, boat-users and kayakers, but the key points to note are:

Keep your distance: keep at least four metres between you and the shark so as not to startle it. If you are swimming with other people, stay in a group, but don't invite others over to take a look.

If you're in a boat, turn off your engine (boat propellers are a major cause of serious injury to basking sharks feeding near the surface)

If you have a camera handy, take lots of photos of the dorsal fin and any distinguishable features on the shark, as this may help the researchers identify the individual

Move away gently and quietly and report your sighting to the Shark Trust

A basking shark feeds by filtering 1,000 tonnes of seawater filled with microscopic plankton every hour.
Ali Hood, director of conservation at the Shark Trust, told BBC Nature: "Basking shark are not aggressive, but a fish of that size (mature basking sharks can weigh well over four tonnes) could cause serious injury.

"Basking sharks are extremely strong and surprisingly able to breach clear of the water.

"If people get too close and the shark makes a rapid movement, it could cause harm to both the shark and the person.

"The code of conduct is there to allow people to comply with the law and enjoy seeing these magnificent animals."

But Dr Gibson says he hopes people will take pleasure in witnessing the ocean's second largest fish and says the data gathered from reported sightings is invaluable for marine conservation work.

"Understanding when they first appear and when they leave shows us year on year trends of the plankton blooms.

"This has already given us evidence that habitats are shifting in response to climate change, and that basking sharks are moving north."

People can report basking shark sightings to the Shark Trust via its website.

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[MARINE_BIOLOGY_INTERNATIONAL] Lost dolphin still lost


(New York Post)

Updated: Sun., Apr. 29, 2012, 5:07 PM
Lost dolphin spends third day in California wetlands
Last Updated: 5:07 PM, April 29, 2012
Posted: 4:17 PM, April 29, 2012
Reuters Not on porpoise: A wayward dolphin swims in the Bolsa Chica Wetlands in Huntington Beach, Calif. Marine mammal experts and biologists have decided to wait and see if this dolphin can find its way out.

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. — A wayward dolphin is spending a third straight day in a narrow wetlands channel along the Southern California coast, under the watchful eyes of wildlife experts.

Peter Wallerstein of Marine Animal Rescue said today that the 6-foot-long, black-and-white common dolphin looks healthy, but appears slightly disoriented.

The dolphin was spotted in a channel of the Bolsa Chica wetlands Friday, circling in shallow waters as crowds grew along the banks and TV helicopters flew overhead.

Wildlife experts on paddleboards managed to coax the animal toward the open sea Saturday, but it was spooked by a pair of fellow dolphins and swam back to the wetlands.

Wallerstein says rescuers might try to herd the dolphin back to the ocean on Monday, but they hope it will find its own way out.

Read more: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/national/lost_dolphin_spends_third_day_in_tFtMtdCBWlCcIkGcHCNQrI#ixzz1tTuw4LSk

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