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News articles on marine animals
Mongabay.com news articles on marine animals in blog format. Updated regularly.
(02/27/2012) Scientists have captured what is believed to be the world's first footage of the cryptic Shepherd's beaked whale (Tasmacetus shepherdi), one of a number of beaked whale species about which scientists know almost nothing.
Amazon.com stops selling whale meat
(02/22/2012) Amazon Japan, a subsidiary of Amazon.com, pulled all whale meat products (and possibly dolphin meat) from its site after a new report by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and the Humane Society International highlighted the issue. Last December the organizations recorded 147 whale products on sale at Amazon Japan despite an international whaling moratorium since 1986. Japan, along with Iceland and Norway, continues to industrially hunt whales. Japan says their whale hunt is for scientific purposes only, but environmentalists dispute this.
Washing clothing pollutes oceans with billions of microplastics
(02/14/2012) Washing synthetic clothes—such as nylon, polyester, and acrylic—is polluting the oceans with billions of microplastics: plastics that measure less than one millimeter. It may sound innocuous, but research has shown that these microplastics are accumulating in marine species with unknown health impacts, both on the pollution-eating species and the humans who consume them.
Jellyfish explosion may be natural cycle
(02/06/2012) Evidence that jellyfish are taking over the oceans is currently lacking, according to a new study published in Bioscience. Complied by a number of marine experts, the study found that while jellyfish have been on the rise in some regions it is likely due to a natural cycle of jellyfish populations and not a global boom. Researchers, including a number of marine biologists, have warned for years that jellyfish numbers may be exploding due to human activities, such as overfishing, warmer oceans due to global climate change, and the rise of oxygen-depleted, so-called "dead zones."
Atlantic sturgeon gains protection under the Endangered Species Act
(02/01/2012) The U.S. federal government has listed the massive and bizarre Atlantic sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus) under the protection of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Historically overfishing decimated the Atlantic sturgeon, while on-going threats include pollution and infrastructure, like dams and bridges that destroy habitat. Fishing for the Atlantic sturgeon has been banned since 1998, they are still caught as bycatch.
87 marine mammals still eaten by people
(01/24/2012) Threats to marine mammals usually include climate change, drowning as by-catch, pollution, depletion of prey, but what about eating marine mammals? A new study in Biological Conservation finds that a surprising 87 marine mammals—including polar bears, small whales, and dolphins—have been eaten as food since 1990 in at least 114 countries.
Acid oceans: in some regions acidification a 'hundred times greater' than natural variation
(01/24/2012) Emissions of carbon over the last two centuries have raised the acidity of the oceans to the highest levels in 21,000 years and likely beyond, according to a new study in Nature Climate Change. The change threatens a number of marine species, including coral reefs and molluscs.
Leatherback sea turtles granted massive protected area along U.S. west coast
(01/23/2012) The U.S. federal government has designated 108,556 square kilometers (41,914 square miles) as critical habitat for the leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), the largest of the world's marine turtles and one of the most endangered. The protected area, around the size of Guatemala, spans coastal sea waters from California to Washington state, but does not protect the migration routes environmentalists hoped for.
Hugh Powell: birds lend invaluable insight into ecosystems
(01/23/2012) Hugh Powell is science editor at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology as well as a contributor to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution's Oceanus and other publications. He's traveled extensively while writing, including stints in Antarctica for WHOI's Live from the Poles. Before finding his niche as a science writer, Hugh studied the interconnections between black-backed woodpeckers, insects, and forest fires in Montana. He currently resides in Ithaca, New York.
New book series hopes to inspire research in world's 'hottest biodiversity hotspot'
(01/17/2012) Entomologist Dmitry Telnov hopes his new pet project will inspire and disseminate research about one of the world's last unexplored biogeographical regions: Wallacea and New Guinea. Incredibly rich in biodiversity and still full of unknown species, the region, also known as the Indo-Australian transition, spans many of the tropical islands of the Pacific, including Indonesia's Sulawesi, Komodo and Flores, as well as East Timor—the historically famous "spice islands" of the Moluccan Archipelago—the Solomon Islands, and, of course, New Guinea. Telnov has begun a new book series, entitled Biodiversity, Biogeography and Nature Conservation in Wallacea and New Guinea, that aims to compile and highlight new research in the region, focusing both on biology and conservation. The first volume, currently available, also includes the description of 150 new species.
Photos: program devoted to world's strangest, most neglected animals celebrates five years
(01/16/2012) What do Attenborough's echidna, the bumblebee bat, and the purple frog have in common? They have all received conservation attention from a unique program by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) called EDGE. Five years old this week, the program focuses on the world's most unique and imperiled animal species or, as they put it, the most Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) species. In the past five years the program has achieved notable successes from confirming the existence of long unseen species (Attenborough's echidna) to taking the first photos and video of a number of targeted animals (the purple frog).
Featured video: tuna industry bycatch includes sea turtles, dolphins, whales
(01/16/2012) A Greenpeace video, using footage from a whistleblower, shows disturbing images of the tuna industry operating in the unregulated waters of the Pacific Ocean. Using fish aggregation devices (FADs) and purse seine nets, the industry is not only able to catch entire schools of tuna, including juvenile, but also whatever else is in the area of the net.
How much is the life of a whale worth?
(01/16/2012) How do you end a decades-long conflict between culture and conservation? How do you stop a conflict where both sides are dug in? A new paper in Nature proposes a way to end the long and bitter battle over whaling: environmentalists could pay whalers not to whale.
Cute animal picture of the day: pygmy killer whale saved after stranding
(01/12/2012) On Tuesday a female pygmy killer whale (Feresa attenuata) was found stranded on Tanjung Aru beach, in the Malaysian state of Sabah on the island of Borneo. After being moved to a swimming enclosure at a local resort for recuperation, the whale was released back into the wild with aid from the Sabah Wildlife Department, marine biologist Lindsay Porter, the local NGO LEAP, and WWF Malaysia.
Bycatch-reducing fish trap wins $20,000
(01/11/2012) An innovative fish trap that allows small non-target fish to escape won a new content by RARE Conservation and National Geographic to fund solutions to overfishing. Developed through studies in Curaçao and Kenya with the Wildlife Conservation Society, the trap has gaps for juvenile fish to swim out of reportedly reducing bycatch by 80 percent. The entry won a $20,000 grant.
Photos: scientists find new species at world's deepest undersea vent
(01/10/2012) It sounds like a medieval vision of hell: in pitch darkness, amid blazing heat, rise spewing volcanic vents. But there are no demons and devils down here, instead the deep sea vent, located in the very non-hellish Caribbean sea, is home to a new species of pale shrimp. At 3.1 miles below (5 kilometers) the sea's surface, the Beebe Vent Field south of the Cayman islands, is the deepest yet discovered.
Critically Endangered Hawaiian monk seals bludgeoned to death
(01/08/2012) To date three Hawaiian monk seals (Monachus schauinslandi), and possibly a fourth mortality under investigation, have been found bludgeoned to death by an as yet undiscovered assailant, reports the Associated Press. Authorities believe the seals may have been killed by local fishermen who fear new regulations meant to save the species from extinction. The seal is currently down to 1,100 individuals.
World's most expensive tuna
(01/05/2012) A 593 pound Pacific bluefin tuna sold for $735,000 (56.49 million yen) in Tokyo's Tsukiji market today. This beats the previous record price hit last year by over $260,000. Why so expensive? Bluefin tuna, considered the best sashimi and sushi in the world, have been fished to near extinction with the population of the Pacific bluefin the most stable to date.
'Lost world' dominated by Yeti crabs discovered in the Antarctic deep
(01/03/2012) Scientists have discovered a deep sea ecosystem dominated by hairy pale crabs off of Antarctica. The new species of "Yeti crabs" survive alongside many other likely new species, including a seven-armed meat-eating starfish, off of hydrothermal vents, which spew heat and chemicals into the lightless, frigid waters. According to the paper published in PLoS ONE, this is the first discovery of a hydrothermal vent ecosystem in the Southern Ocean though many others have been recorded in warmer waters worldwide.
Top 10 Environmental Stories of 2011
(12/22/2011) Many of 2011's most dramatic stories on environmental issues came from people taking to the streets. With governments and corporations slow to tackle massive environmental problems, people have begun to assert themselves. Victories were seen on four continents: in Bolivia a draconian response to protestors embarrassed the government, causing them to drop plans to build a road through Tipnis, an indigenous Amazonian reserve; in Myanmar, a nation not known for bowing to public demands, large protests pushed the government to cancel a massive Chinese hydroelectric project; in Borneo a three-year struggle to stop the construction of a coal plant on the coast of the Coral Triangle ended in victory for activists; in Britain plans to privatize forests created such a public outcry that the government not only pulled back but also apologized; and in the U.S. civil disobedience and massive marches pressured the Obama Administration to delay a decision on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which would bring tar sands from Canada to a global market.
Bathtub-sized marine sponge rediscovered after a century of extinction
(11/22/2011) Not found alive for over a century the evocatively named Neptune's cup sponge (Cliona patera) has been rediscovered off the shores of Singapore. Researchers with the environmental consulting DHI Group found the species during a routine dive. Although the specimen they found was small, the goblet-shaped sponge can reach nearly 5 feet (1.5 meters) high and the same in diameter.
Picture of the day: Ocean in Focus photo contest winner
(11/22/2011) A photo of a shark with a rusting hook in its maw is the grand prize winner of the Ocean in Focus photo contest, which seeks to raise awareness for conservation issues in the oceans.
US reduces catch limit of 'most important fish in the sea'
(11/15/2011) The Atlantic State Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) has slashed the allowable catch of a tiny fish named menhaden by 37 percent by 2013. Dubbed the 'most important fish in the sea' by author H. Bruce Franklin, the menhaden plays a critical role in marine ecosystems as a food source for larger fish, seabirds, and marine mammals, as well as helping to regulate the marine environment. However, due to overfishing the menhaden fish has dropped 92 percent from its historical population.
Coral reef biodiversity may be vastly underestimated
(11/03/2011) Researchers with the Smithsonian have catalogued almost as many crab species on tropical coral reef bits measuring just 20.6 square feet (6.3 square meters) as in all of Europe's seas, finds a new paper in PLoS ONE. The team used DNA barcoding to quickly identify a total of 525 crustaceans (including 168 crab species) from dead coral chunks taken from seven sites in the tropics, including the Indian, Pacific and Caribbean oceans.
11 challenges facing 7 billion super-consumers
(10/31/2011) Perhaps the most disconcerting thing about Halloween this year is not the ghouls and goblins taking to the streets, but a baby born somewhere in the world. It's not the baby's or the parent's fault, of course, but this child will become a part of an artificial, but still important, milestone: according to the UN, the Earth's seventh billionth person will be born today. That's seven billion people who require, in the very least, freshwater, food, shelter, medicine, and education. In some parts of the world, they will also have a car, an iPod, a suburban house and yard, pets, computers, a lawn-mower, a microwave, and perhaps a swimming pool. Though rarely addressed directly in policy (and more often than not avoided in polite conversations), the issue of overpopulation is central to environmentally sustainability and human welfare.
Small marine fish need protection too
(10/25/2011) It has long been known that overfishing has decimated some populations of tuna, shark, cod, as well as other big predatory fish; however two recent studies have pointed out that overfishing is also threatening small fish such as anchovies, sardines, mackerel, herring, menhaden, and krill. Although tiny, these species are vital to marine ecosystems since many species higher up on the food chain—from seabirds to marine mammals to big fish—wholly depend on them for survival.
Giant one-celled organisms discovered over six miles below the ocean's surface
(10/23/2011) Imagine a one-celled organism the size of a mango. It's not science fiction, but fact: scientists have cataloged dozens of giant one-celled creatures, around 4 inches (10 centimeters), in the deep abysses of the world's oceans. But recent exploration of the Mariana Trench has uncovered the deepest record yet of the one-celled behemoths, known as xenophyophores.
Photos: satellite tracking of the unicorn of the sea
(10/19/2011) A new program aims to track one of the ocean's most enigmatic creatures: the narwhal (Monodon monoceros). Tagging nine narwhales in August, researchers plan to track the species in order to gain new insights about how the little-known toothed whale will withstand a rapidly melting Arctic due to climate change. "[This] is a chance to better understand these animals while their world changes around them. We know narwhals are often associated with sea ice, and we know the sea ice is shrinking. WWF is trying to understand how narwhals, as well as all other ice associated animals in the arctic can adapt to a changing environment," says Peter Ewins with WWF-Canada.
Fishing industry exceeds Atlantic bluefin quota by 141 percent
(10/18/2011) In 2010 the fishing industry exceeded its quota of eastern Atlantic bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) by 141 percent, according to a new analysis by Pew Environment Group. The analysis depends on official data, thereby leaving out the massive black market on Atlantic bluefin tuna.
Photos: New Zealand oil disaster kills over 1200 birds to date
(10/16/2011) According to the New Zealand government an oil spill from a grounded container ship in the Bay of Plenty has killed 1,250 seabirds with hundreds of others in rescue centers. However, conservationists say the avian death-toll is far higher with most contaminated birds simply vanishing in the sea. "The number of birds being found washed up on the beaches will be a very small proportion of the birds being affected," explained Karen Baird, Seabird Conservation Advocate with NGO Forest & Bird.
Bird-killing oil spill New Zealand's 'worst environmental disaster'
(10/12/2011) An oil spill from a grounded container ship in New Zealand's Bay of Plenty is threatening to worsen as authorities fear the ship is breaking up. Already, 350 tons of oil from the ship, the MV Rena, has leaked out with some reaching nearby beaches including a popular holiday spot, Papamoa Beach. To date the spill has killed over 200 birds, including little blue penguins, shags, petrels, albatrosses and plovers. If the ship breaks up and sinks, authorities fear it could release its remaining 1,400 tons into the marine ecosystem.
Poor in Madagascar see fish plundered for foreign consumption
(10/11/2011) A new study warns that overfishing could exacerbate poverty and political stability in one of the world's poorest nations: Madagascar. According to the recent study by the University of British Columbia's Sea Around Us Project and Malagasy NGO Blue Ventures, fish catches in the African island-nation from 1950 to 2008 are actually double the official numbers, with foreign wealthy nations currently taking half the haul.
Marshall Islands creates world's biggest shark park
(10/03/2011) The Republic of the Marshall Islands has created the world's biggest shark reserve: so large that all of Mexico could fit comfortably inside. With new legislation, commercial shark fishing is now completely banned in Marshall Islands' 768,547 square miles (1,990,530 square kilometers) of ocean.
Colombian president: no oil drilling in award-winning Seaflower marine reserve
(10/03/2011) Colombian president, Juan Manuel Santos, announced over the weekend that there will be no oil exploration in the award-winning Seaflower Biosphere Reserve and Marine Protected Area (MPA). Spreading over 65,000 square kilometers (6,500,000 hectares), Seaflower MPA is home to over a hundred coral species, over 400 fish, some 150 birds, four marine turtles species, and the magnificent mollusk, the queen conch (Strombus gigas).
Deepwater spill 'meets the Titanic': groups sue to stop Arctic drilling
(09/29/2011) Following the Obama administration's approval of Royal Dutch Shell to drill in the Arctic's Beaufort Sea, a wide-swathe of environmental have filed a lawsuit to stop the drilling, which could begin as early as next summer. Those filing the lawsuit today blasted Shell for what they perceived as a pathetic oil spill response plan, and the Obama administration for acquiescing to the big oil company.
Deepwater oil spill likely to hurt fish populations over decades
(09/28/2011) Oil pollution doesn't have to kill fish to have a long-term impact, according to a recent study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Researchers found that Gulf killifish (Fundulus grandis) that had been exposed to very low to non-detectable levels of oil contamination from the Deepwater oil spill last year, still showed developmental problems that are likely to impact fish populations for decades to come.
Sowing the seeds to save the Patagonian Sea
(09/07/2011) With wild waters and shores, the Patagonia Sea is home to a great menagerie of marine animals: from penguins to elephants seals, albatrosses to squid, and sea lions to southern right whales. The sea lies at crossroads between more northern latitudes and the cold bitter water of the Southern Ocean, which surround Antarctica. However the region is also a heavy fishing ground, putting pressure on a number of species and imperiling the very ecosystem that supplies the industry. Conservation efforts, spearheaded by marine conservationist Claudio Campagna and colleagues with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), are in the early stages. Campagna, who often writes about the importance of language in the fight for preservation, has pushed to rename the area to focus on its stunning wildlife.
Mass walrus haul-outs, polar bear cub mortality linked to climate change
(09/01/2011) Recent, unprecedented walrus haul-outs and increased instances of long-distance swims by polar bears show the direct impacts on wildlife of dwindling Arctic sea ice from climate change. These threatened species also face the prospect of offshore drilling in the Arctic after the Obama Administration recently approved a number of plans to move forward on oil exploration. At least 8,000 walruses hauled out on an Alaskan beach along the Chukchi Sea on August 17. Only a day before, the U.S. Geological Survey announced it would begin tagging walruses near Point Lay, Alaska to study how a lack of sea ice is affecting the species.
New seabird discovered from Hawaii, but no one knows where it lives
(08/30/2011) Researchers have uncovered a new seabird native to Hawaii stuffed in a museum. Originally identified as a smaller variation of a little shearwater (Puffinus assimilis), DNA tests showed that the bird, which was collected over four decades ago, was in fact a unique species. Named Bryan’s shearwater (Puffinus bryani), the fate of this bird in the wild remains unknown.
Humanity knows less than 15 percent of the world's species
(08/23/2011) Scientists have named, cataloged, and described less than 2 million species in the past two and a half centuries, yet, according to an new innovative analysis, we are no-where near even a basic understanding of the diversity of life on this small blue planet. The study in PLoS Biology, which is likely to be controversial, predicts that there are 8.7 million species in the world, though the number could be as low as 7.4 or as high as 10 million. The research implies that about 86 percent of the world's species have still yet to be described.
Animal picture of the day: 18 pound lobster saved from dinner plate
(08/18/2011) Although big, this is not by far the largest American lobster (Homarus americanus) ever found.
New species is eel-equivalent of the coelacanth
(08/18/2011) The ocean holds endless surprises still. In an underwater cave off the Pacific island nation of Palau, reachers have made an astounding discovery: an eel species unknown to science that harkens back 200 million years. The species, described in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B as an 'enigmatic, small eel-like fish', sports anatomical features that differentiate it from the over 800 known species of eel surviving today.
Fish use tools
(07/17/2011) A blackspot tuskfish (Choerodon schoenleinii) has been photographed picking up a clam in its mouth, swimming over to a rock, and then using the rock as an anvil by smashing the clam against it until it breaks open. In the journal Coral Reefs scientists argue this is the first conclusive evidence of a fish using tools. Once thought only the domain of humans, biologists have found that tool use is actually present all over the animal kingdom, from elephants to chimps, and crows to capuchins. Such tool use is often considered evidence of higher intelligence.
Decline in top predators and megafauna 'humankind’s most pervasive influence on nature'
(07/14/2011) Worldwide wolf populations have dropped around 99 percent from historic populations. Lion populations have fallen from 450,000 to 20,000 in 50 years. Three subspecies of tiger went extinct in the 20th Century. Overfishing and finning has cut some shark populations down by 90 percent in just a few decades. Though humpback whales have rebounded since whaling was banned, they are still far from historic numbers. While some humans have mourned such statistics as an aesthetic loss, scientists now say these declines have a far greater impact on humans than just the vanishing of iconic animals. The almost wholesale destruction of top predators—such as sharks, wolves, and big cats—has drastically altered the world's ecosystems, according to a new review study in Science. Although researchers have long known that the decline of animals at the top of food chain, including big herbivores and omnivores, affects ecosystems through what is known as 'trophic cascade', studies over the past few decades are only beginning to reveal the extent to which these animals maintain healthy environments, preserve biodiversity, and improve nature's productivity.
Forgotten species: the rebellious spotted handfish
(07/12/2011) Evolution is a bizarre mistress. In her adaptation workshop she has crafted parrots that don't fly, amphibians with lifelong gills, poison-injecting rodents, and tusked whales. In an evolutionary hodge-podge that is reminiscent of such mythical beasts as chimeras and griffins, she has from time-to-time given some species' attributes of others, such as the marine iguana who is as happy underwater as a seal, the duck-billed platypus that lays eggs like a reptile, and the purple frog that has a lifestyle reminiscent of a mole. Then there's one of her least-known hodge-podges: the fish who 'walks' with hands instead of swimming.
Honduras protects sharks in all its waters
(06/26/2011) Endangered sharks are finding more sanctuaries. Honduras has announced that commercial shark fishing will be banned from its 92,665 square miles (240,000 square kilometers) of national waters. Honduras says the ban, which follows a moratorium on shark fishing, will bring in tourism revenue and preserve the marine environment.
Ocean prognosis: mass extinction
(06/20/2011) Multiple and converging human impacts on the world's oceans are putting marine species at risk of a mass extinction not seen for millions of years, according to a panel of oceanic experts. The bleak assessment finds that the world's oceans are in a significantly worse state than has been widely recognized, although past reports of this nature have hardly been uplifting. The panel, organized by the International Program on the State of the Ocean (IPSO), found that overfishing, pollution, and climate change are synergistically pummeling oceanic ecosystems in ways not seen during human history. Still, the scientists believe that there is time to turn things around if society recognizes the need to change.
Google Earth used to identify marine animal behavior
(06/14/2011) From the all-seeing eye of Google Earth, one can spy the tip of Mount Everest, traffic on 5th Avenue in Manhattan, and the ruins of Machu Picchu, but who would have guessed everyone's favorite interactive globe would also provide marine biologists a God's-eye view of fish behavior? Well, a new study in the just-launched Scientific Reports has discovered visible evidence on Google Earth of the interactions between marine predators and prey in the Great Barrier Reef.
Russia and Norway carve up wildlife-rich Arctic sea for fossil fuels
(06/09/2011) As climate change melts the Arctic sea ice, nations are rushing to carve up once-inaccessible areas for oil and gas exploitation, industrial fishing, and shipping routes. Now, BBC reports that Russia and Norway have essentially agreed to split the Arctic's Barents Sea in half —one of the region's richest in biodiversity and ecological productivity—for industrial exploitation.
Longline fishing still drowning over a quarter million seabirds every year
(06/08/2011) A new analysis estimates that longline fisheries are still decimating seabirds, even after years of efforts to mitigate deaths. According to a study in Endangered Species Research around 300,000 seabirds are drowned by longline fisheries as bycatch. Attracted by bait on the longline—sometimes measuring hundreds of miles as it trails on the surface behind a boat—birds are often hooked and drowned.
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