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News articles on oceans
Mongabay.com news articles on oceans in blog format. Updated regularly.
(10/13/2010) Too many people consuming too much is depleting the world's natural resources faster than they are replenished, imperiling not only the world's species but risking the well-being of human societies, according to a new massive study by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), entitled the Living Planet Report. The report finds that humanity is currently consuming the equivalent of 1.5 planet Earths every year for its activities. This overconsumption has caused biodiversity—in this case, representative populations of vertebrate animals—to fall by 30 percent worldwide since 1970. The situation is more dire in tropical regions where terrestrial species' populations have fallen by 60 percent and freshwater species by 70 percent.
Number of described marine species climbs from 230,000 to 250,000
(10/05/2010) After a decade of research in oceans around the world, scientists released the final results of the first Census of Marine Life (CoML) on Monday. The research, which involved 2,700 scientists from more than 80 countries, increased the number of known marine species from 230,000 to 250,000.
Colossal coral bleaching kills up to 95 percent of corals in the Philippines
(09/23/2010) It is one of the most worrisome observations: fast massive death of coral reefs. A severe wide-scale bleaching occurred in the Philippines leaving 95 percent of the corals dead. The bleaching happened as the result of the 2009-2010 El Niño, with the Indian Ocean and Southeast Asia waters experiencing significant thermal increase especially since the beginning of 2010.
Google Earth launches ocean layer for iPhone, iPad users
(09/21/2010) Google Earth's ocean layer is now available on the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, reports Google in a blog post.
Marine managed areas help reverse declining fisheries, create sustainable livelihoods
(09/16/2010) Marine managed areas in developing countries can help reverse declining fisheries while generating long-term benefits for communities, according to a series of reports released by Conservation International (CI). The reports, informed by more than 50 studies and 100 scientists in 23 countries around the world since 2005, evaluate the role of marine managed areas (MMAs) in maintaining ocean health, assess the link between sustainable ocean use and human well-being, and architect what it takes to successfully implement MMAs.
As a tiny island nation makes a big sacrifice, will the rest of the world follow suit?
(09/15/2010) Kiribati, a small nation consisting of 33 Pacific island atolls, is forecast to be among the first countries swamped by rising sea levels. Nevertheless, the country recently made an astounding commitment: it closed over 150,000 square miles of its territory to fishing, an activity that accounts for nearly half the government's tax revenue. What moved the tiny country to take this monumental action? President Anote Tong, says Kiribati is sending a message to the world: 'We need to make sacrifices to provide a future for our children and grandchildren.'
Shark attack victims: save sharks!
(09/13/2010) Shark attack survivors urged the United Nations to take measures to protect sharks, which are increasingly threatened by unsustainable fishing practices.
Coral reef survival depends on the super small, an interview with Forest Rohwer
(08/30/2010) If you take a teaspoon and dip it into the ocean what will you have? Some drops of lifeless water? Only a few decades ago this is what scientists would have said, however, the development of increasingly powerful microscopes have shown us a world long unknown, which has vital importance for the survival of one of the world's most threatened and most treasured ecosystems: coral reefs. A single milliliter of water is now known to contain at least a million living microbes, i.e. organisms too small to see without a microscope. After discovering their super-abundant presence, researchers are now beginning to uncover how these incredibly tiny life-forms shape the fate of the world's coral reefs.
Massive oil plume discovered in the Gulf
(08/19/2010) Researchers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) have detected a plume of hydrocarbons that is at least 22 miles long and more than 3,000 feet below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico, a result of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, reports a study published in Science.
Massive coral bleaching in Indonesia
(08/16/2010) A large-scale bleaching event due to high ocean temperatures appears to be underway off the coast of Sumatra, an Indonesian island, reports the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).
The biology and conservation of declining coral reefs, an interview with Kristian Teleki
(08/15/2010) Coral reefs are often considered the "rainforests of the sea" because of their amazing biodiversity. In fact, coral reefs are one of the most diverse ecosystems on earth. It is not unusual for a reef to have several hundred species of snails, sixty species of corals, and several hundred species of fish. While they comprise under 1% of the world’s ocean surface, one-quarter of all marine species call coral reefs their home. Fish, mollusks, sea stars, sea urchins, and more depend on this important ecosystem, and humans do too. Coral reefs supply important goods and services–from shoreline protection to tourism and fisheries–which by some estimates are worth $375 billion a year.
Malaysia preparing to take big step backward on energy policy
(08/13/2010) I write to you as a deeply concerned and saddened citizen of Malaysia. For most of the 45 years of my life, I have been proud to be Malaysian. Recently, I have become heartbroken to be Malaysian. I am profoundly grateful to write this with the support of both my local communities in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo and California, U.S.A., and a larger world community. That said, I take full ownership of and sole responsibility for the views articulated in this letter; I express them from my stand as a mother, an earth citizen and a leader.
Environmental assessment for Borneo coal plant riddled with errors
(08/03/2010) The Detailed Environmental Impact Assessment (DEIA) for a proposed coal plant in Sabah is full of holes, according to activists with the organization Green SURF (Sabah Unite to Re-Power the Future), which opposes the plant. The official environmental report from Lahad Datu Energy lists species not endemic to Borneo, mistakes the nearest ecosystem to the coal plant, and confuses indigenous groups. Even more seriously, the DEIA leaves out information on the coal plant's specifics and possible 'green' alternatives.
What is the most unexplored ecosystem on Earth?
(08/02/2010) One should be forgiven for thinking that the most under-explored ecosystem in the world is tropical rainforests or cave systems since new species are frequently uncovered in such places. But new research in the open-access journal PLoS ONE finds that the least explored part of the world is the deep sea, especially what lies beneath the open ocean. Ironically, not only does this ecosystem remain the least explored, it is also the world's largest habitat.
Visiting the Gulf: how wildlife and people are faring in America's worst environmental disaster, an interview with Jennifer Jacquet
(07/29/2010) "President Obama called it 'the worst environmental disaster America has ever faced.' So I thought I should face it and head to the Gulf"—these are the opening words on the popular blog Guilty Planet as the author, marine biologist Jennifer Jacquet, embarked on a ten day trip to Louisiana. As a scientist, Jacquet was, of course, interested in the impact of the some four million barrels of oil on the Gulf's already depleted ecosystem, however she was as equally keen to see how Louisianans were coping with the fossil fuel-disaster that devastated their most vital natural resource just four years after Hurricane Katrina.
Backbone of marine food chain in alarming decline
(07/28/2010) Tiny marine algae, known as phytoplankton, are the backbone of the marine food chain, yet a new study in Nature has found that this backbone is disintegrating. Researchers discovered that since 1950 phytoplankton has declined by approximately 40 percent across the Northern Hemisphere, a decline that corresponds to warming waters due to climate change. Given that phytoplankton feed the oceans' abundance all the way up the food chain—from zooplankton to fish to seabird to sharks to humans—the decline has likely impacted the very structure of the ocean.
Who's really accountable for the BP oil spill?
(07/25/2010) Reading articles in the newspapers recently and online, I find the media's focus is on scrutinizing BP's way of paying for the damage done when an estimated 76,934,000 gallons of their oil leaked out into the Gulf of Mexico after the explosion of their Deepwater Horizon rig in April. It is not that they are being criticised for not standing up and taking full responsibility for their recklessness that caused the spill, but instead they are being accused of not paying enough money for its clean-up. Taxpayers are outraged that they may pick-up the tab and are demanding to know why they should be held accountable when the disaster wasn’t their fault. Yet, do we not all have a part to play in this catastrophe?
Citibank's shark fin soup promotion draws ire, ends early
(07/22/2010) Citibank Hong Kong has canceled its promotion of shark fin soup after activists cried foul, according to the New York Times. The branch had offered Citibank card holders 15 percent off a shark fin soup dinner at Maxim's Chinese Cuisine for the month of July.
New NASA image reveals the oceans' dead zones
(07/22/2010) A new image by NASA reveals the extent of the world's marine dead zones, which a study in 2008 found were doubling every decade. At that time 415 dead zones had been identified worldwide. Dead zones are regions of the ocean where dissolved oxygen has fallen to such low levels that most marine species can no longer survive. Such conditions are often seasonal.
Coral reefs doomed by climate change
(07/22/2010) The world's coral reefs are in great danger from dual threats of rising temperatures and ocean acidification, Charlie Veron, Former Chief Scientist of the Australian Institute of Marine Science, told scientists attending the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation meeting in Sanur, Bali. Tracing the geological history of coral reefs over hundreds of millions of years, Veron said reefs lead a boom-and-bust existence, which appears to be correlated with atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. With CO2 emissions rising sharply from human activities, reefs—which are home to perhaps a quarter of marine species and provide critical protection for coastlines—are poised for a 'bust' on a scale unlike anything seen in tens of millions of years.
Amazing reefs: how corals 'hear', an interview with Steve Simpson
(07/21/2010) Corals aggregate to form vast reefs, which are home to numerous species and provide vital ecological services such as protecting shorelines. However, coral reefs are one of the most threatened ecosystems in the world due to many factors, such as global warming and ocean acidification. Recent research by Simpson and his team of scientists has shown that corals, rather than drifting aimlessly after being released by their parent colonies and by chance landing back on reefs, instead find their way purposefully to reefs by detecting the sound of snapping shrimps and grunting fish on the reef. However, that discovery also means that the larvae might struggle to find reefs when human noises, like drilling or boats, mask the natural ocean sounds.
Oil disaster threatens Gulf of Mexico's deep water titans
(07/19/2010) As I discovered in the course of researching my book, No Rain in the Amazon: How South America’s Climate Change Affects the Entire Planet (Palgrave, 2010), the oil industry has had a poor record when it comes to protecting aquatic sea life. Take for example the manatee, which has been put at risk from the Amazon to the Gulf of Mexico as a result of the oil industry. One of the most outlandish creatures on the planet, the shy and retiring manatee, which gets its name from an American Indian word meaning “Lady of the Water,” was first described as a cross between a seal and hippo. The creature has a wonderfully round body, mostly black skin the texture of vinyl, a bright pink belly, a diamond-shaped tail and a cleft lip.
Conservation photography: on shooting and saving the world's largest temperate rainforest, an interview with Amy Gulick
(07/11/2010) Most of the US's large ecosystems are but shadows of their former selves. The old-growth deciduous forests that once covered nearly all of the east and mid-west continental US are gone, reduced to a few fragmented patches that are still being lost. The tall grassy plains that once stretched further than any eye could see have been almost wholly replaced by agriculture and increasing suburbs. Habitats, from deserts to western forests, are largely carved by roads and under heavy impact from resource exploitation to invasive species. Coastal marine systems, once super abundant, have partially collapsed in many places due to overfishing, as well as pollution and development. Despite this, there are still places in the US where the 'wild' in wilderness remains largely true, and one of those is the Tongass temperate rainforest of Southeast Alaska.
Goodbye to the Gulf: oil disaster hits region's 'primary production'
(07/08/2010) According to a new analysis by the World Resources Institute (WRI), the many ecosystem services provided by the Gulf of Mexico will be severely impacted by BP's giant oil spill. 'Ecosystem services' are the name given by scientists and experts to free benefits provided by intact ecosystems, for example pollination or clean water. In the Gulf of Mexico, such environmental benefits maintain marine food production, storm buffers, tourism, and carbon sequestration, but one of the most important of marine ecosystem services is known as 'primary production'.
In the midst of marine collapse will we save our last ocean?
(07/05/2010) Imagine an ocean untouched by oil spills: a sea free of pollution, invasive species, dead zones, and over-exploitation; waters where marine animals exist in natural abundance and play ecological roles undimmed by mankind. Such a place may sound impossible in today's largely depleted oceans, but it exists: only discovered in 1841, the Ross Sea spreads over nearly a million kilometers adjacent to the Antarctic continent. Here killer whales, penguins, sea birds, whales, and giant fish all thrive. However, even with its status as the world's 'last ocean', the Ross Sea has not escaped human impact. Over the last 15 years commercial fisheries have begun to catch one of its most important species in the ecosystem to serve them up on the dinner plates of the wealthy.
Papua New Guinea strips communal land rights protections, opening door to big business
(06/30/2010) On May 28th the parliament in Papua New Guinea passed a sweeping amendment that protects resource corporations from any litigation related to environmental destruction, labor laws, and landowner abuse. All issues related to the environment would now be decided by the government with no possibility of later lawsuits. Uniquely in the world, over 90 percent of land in Papua New Guinea is owned by clan or communally, not be the government. However this new amendment drastically undercuts Papua New Guinea's landowners from taking legislative action before or after environmental damage is done. Essentially it places all environmental safeguards with the Environment and Conservation Minister.
Whaling talks break down: ban stays in place, yet whaling will continue
(06/23/2010) The International Whaling Commission (IWC), which was supposed to decide a way forward for whales over the next decade has ended without an agreement. Talks broke down, according to participants, because countries opposed to whaling and those that continue hunting and killing whales despite a ban on commercial whaling—i.e. Japan, Norway, and Iceland—have been unable to find enough common ground to pound out an agreement.
To whale or not to whale?: nations, environmental groups do some soul-searching
(06/22/2010) There are two ways forward on whaling according to visions being put forward at the International Whaling Commission this week. One way is to uphold the 24-year-long ban on hunting and killing whales. While this road sends a strong pro-conservation message, it also means that Japan, Norway, and Iceland will continue whaling as they have over the past couple decades, killing an average of 2,000 whales annually. These three countries employ a variety of excuses for their whaling—Iceland and Norway simply state that they do not recognize the whaling ban while Japan claims its whaling is only done for 'scientific purposes'—but it is clear that they will not end whaling and, to date, there is no punishment for their dismissal of the international treaty.
Methane and Climate Change: From the Amazon to the Gulf of Mexico
(06/20/2010) In surveying the environmental damage unleashed from the BP oil spill, could we be missing the 800-pound gorilla in the closet? While oil poses undeniable ecological risks, methane (CH4) could prove daunting as well. As it turns out, crude which is destroying the Gulf of Mexico contains about 40 percent methane which may suffocate marine life and create vast “dead zones” where oxygen becomes so depleted that nothing is allowed to live.
Fishermen express doubts about coal plant overlooking their fishing grounds
(06/13/2010) Local fishermen in the Malaysian state of Sabah are uncertain of their future, if the government pushes ahead to build a 300 megawatt coal power plant. They have been told they will be moved from their current seaside village to one deeper inland, and while the coal plant will provide manual labor work in its building stages, the fishermen express doubt about the impacts over the long-term effects of the coal plant on their livelihood. "Someone mentioned that maybe we have to move to Sungai Merah, which is quite far from our village. We are also worried because Sungai Merah is not next to the sea like [our village] is," local fishermen, Ali Hia, told Green SURF and Save Sandakan members—two local organizations opposed to the coal plant—who recently visited the seaside village of Kampung Sinakut, site of the proposed coal plant.
The penguin crisis: over 60 percent of the world's penguins threatened with extinction
(06/10/2010) Everyone loves penguins. With their characteristic black-and-white 'tuxedo' markings, upright waddle, and childlike stature, penguins seem at once exotic and familiar: exotic because they live far from most human habitations, familiar because they appear in innumerable books and movies. From Mr. Popper's Penguins to Happy Feet, and from March of the Penguins to And Tango Makes Three, penguins pop-up everywhere. The flightless birds have even provided the name and symbol to one of the world's most successful publishing houses. Yet despite their popularity amid the human kingdom, few people seem aware that penguins worldwide are facing an extinction crisis.
Quota filled, bluefin tuna hunt ends early
(06/09/2010) The European Commission (EC) has announced an early end to the Atlantic bluefin tuna season since the quota of 13,500 tons has been met. The fishing will end at 11:59 tonight GMT.
Will we ever know the full wildlife toll of the BP oil spill?
(06/08/2010) Will we ever know the full wildlife toll of the BP oil spill? The short answer: no. The gruesome photos that are making the media rounds over the last week of oiled birds, fish, and crustaceans are according to experts only a small symbol of the ecological catastrophe that is likely occurring both in shallow and deep waters. Due to the photos, birds, especially the brown pelican, have become the symbol of the spill to date. But while dozens of birds have been brought to rescue stations covered in oil, the vast majority will die out at sea far from human eyes and snapping cameras, according to Sharon Taylor a vet with the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
The bluefin tuna wars: Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd step up tactics to save Critically Endangered species
(06/07/2010) Things have become ugly in the Mediterranean: over the weekend, fishermen and Greenpeace activists squared off over the fate of the Critically Endangered bluefin tuna. One run-in, in which Greenpeace worked to free tuna from fishermen's nets, left one activist in the hospital after a fisherman sunk a hook in the activist's leg. Meanwhile, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has announced a 'Blue Rage' campaign that will target illegal fishing of bluefin tuna.
Saltwater crocodiles surf across the ocean
(06/06/2010) Despite being poor swimmers, researchers have discovered that the saltwater crocodile (also known as estuarine) commonly travels long distances over open oceans by riding ocean currents. The discovery, published inJournal of Animal Ecology, solves an unknown mystery of why saltwater crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus) are found across vast distance in the Pacific, yet have not diverged into different species.
As Mangroves Die from Oil, U.S. Public Yawns
(06/03/2010) What if, instead of a nasty oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, the U.S. public was now confronted with a natural catastrophe in the Grand Canyon or in California Redwood forests? Within the popular imagination, certain types of ecosystems elicit more sympathy than others, and very low on the totem pole are mangrove forests. Located in the tropics, mangroves are a mess of thick, tangled salt-tolerant trees and shrubs which thrive in brackish tidal waters. When I paddled through the Florida Everglades in a canoe some fifteen years ago, I found mangroves bizarre looking: trees have long roots which stick out above the water level.
A total ban on primary forest logging needed to save the world, an interview with activist Glen Barry
(06/02/2010) Radical, controversial, ahead-of-his-time, brilliant, or extremist: call Dr. Glen Barry, the head of Ecological Internet, what you will, but there is no question that his environmental advocacy group has achieved major successes in the past years, even if many of these are below the radar of big conservation groups and mainstream media. "We tend to be a little different than many organizations in that we do take a deep ecology, or biocentric approach," Barry says of the organization he heads. "[Ecological Internet] is very, very concerned about the state of the planet. It is my analysis that we have passed the carrying capacity of the Earth, that in several matters we have crossed different ecosystem tipping points or are near doing so. And we really act with more urgency, and more ecological science, than I think the average campaign organization."
The Gulf oil spill in context: US oil consumption
(05/31/2010) The US government has now confirmed that the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is the United States' largest oil spill and perhaps the nation's worst environmental disaster. While poor government oversight and negligence by oil giant BP certainly contributed to the disaster, the fact that the US is drilling over a mile below the surface in one of its most important marine ecosystems is directly related to US consumption of oil: the highest in the world.
Hawaii bans shark fin soup
(05/31/2010) Governor of Hawaii, Linda Lingle, has signed into law a ban on shark-fin soup beginning July 1st, 2011, according to Reuters. The soup is currently served in a number of Chinese restaurants in Hawaii, but the trade has decimated certain shark species due to overfishing.
BP fails to stop oil spill
(05/30/2010) BP has failed to stop oil gushing from over a mile below the surface in the Gulf of Mexico. The oil spill, which has been confirmed as the worst in American history, has spread between 504,000 to 798,000 gallons of crude oil per day into one of America's most important marine ecosystems.
Left Must Fine Tune Its Position on Cuba Embargo in Light of Oil Spill
(05/26/2010) With no end in sight to the environmental catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico, some may wonder whether BP’s spill could become truly international in scope. That, at least, is the fear in Cuba where people are worried that strong currents could carry the slick to pristine white beaches along the island’s northern coast. In a rare moment of cooperation underscoring the grave seriousness posed by the BP spill, the U.S. and Cuban governments have been holding talks on the matter.
Researchers begin studying long-term effects of oil spill on marine life
(05/25/2010) As a White House official today announced that the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is the worst in US history—surpassing even the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska in 1989 (which is still affecting the area today)—marine biologist are beginning to prepare studies to monitor how the spill will impact the gulf in the long-term.
Photos: the penis-like mushroom and other top 10 new species of 2009
(05/23/2010) The International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University has released its annual top 10 list of new species discovered last year. This time the list includes a two inch penis-like mushroom, a minnow named after Bram Stoker's world-famous horror-character, a bomb-throwing deep sea worm, a giant carnivorous plant named after TV personality and conservationist David Attenborough, and a beautifully patterned frogfish.
Photos reveal paradise-like site for coal plant in Borneo
(05/21/2010) With the world's eyes on the environmental catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico, many are beginning to ponder the rightness of not just America's, but the world's dependence on fossil fuels. Yet large-scale fossil-fuel energy projects continue to march ahead, including one in the Malaysian state of Sabah on Borneo to build a 300 MW coal plant, which has come under fierce opposition from locals (already the project has been forced to move locations twice). The newest proposal will build the coal plant, as photos below reveal, on an undeveloped beach overlooking the Coral Triangle, one of the world's most biodiverse marine environments, with transmission lines likely running through nearby pristine rainforest that are home to several endangered species, including orangutans and Bornean rhinos.
NASA image reveals new oil trail hundreds of kilometers long in the Gulf
(05/19/2010) A new NASA image of the Gulf oil spill shows a trail of oil extending hundreds of kilometers south and then southeast from the spill. At points this new oil trail is at least twenty kilometers wide. Media groups are saying the new arm may be additional proof that oil has been caught up in the Loop Current, which would carry the pollution to Florida coastlines and possibly even the East coast.
Spill may be spreading: tar balls wash up in the Florida Keys
(05/18/2010) Florida had an unwelcome visitor today as tar balls washed on shore at Fort Zachary State Park in Key West, reports Reuters. Local officials fear the tar balls—small blobs of oil—originated from the Gulf oil spill caused after the Deepwater Horizon offshore oil rig run by BP exploded. If tests determine that tar balls originated from the spill it would confirm that leaking oil is being carried by an ocean current, known as the Loop Current, from the spill site to Florida's coast.
Wildlife death toll from BP oil spill likely includes dolphins
(05/13/2010) The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is taking its toll on the region's wildlife: brown pelicans, sea turtles, several species of fish, and now dolphins have been found dead. The National Marine Fisheries Service reported today finding six dead dolphins in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama since May 2nd. Officials are saying the deaths could be related to the oil spill or may be due to natural deaths from calving. They are currently testing tissue samples to determine if oil pollution was a cause of death. Dolphins have been observed swimming in oil-stained waters off of Louisiana.
Collapsing biodiversity is a 'wake-up call for humanity'
(05/10/2010) A joint report released today by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the UN Environment Program (UNEP) finds that our natural support systems are on the verge of collapsing unless radical changes are made to preserve the world's biodiversity. Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Ahmed Djoghlaf, called the bleak report "a wake-up call for humanity."
The good old days: 17 times easier to catch fish in 1889
(05/05/2010) It is widely recognized that fish populations have dropped drastically over the past century, but a new study in Nature Communications shows the decline may be worse than expected. Research from the University of York and the Marine Conservation Society has discovered that it was 17 times easier in the UK to catch fish in 1889—when ships were powered by sail—than it is today using high-powered motor boats with technological advances.
Who's to blame for the oil spill?
(05/04/2010) America, we deserve the oil spill now threatening the beautiful coast of Louisiana. This disaster is not natural, like the earthquake that devastated Haiti or tsunami that swept Southeast Asia in 2006; this disaster is man-made, American-made in fact, pure and simple. So, while in the upcoming weeks and months—if things go poorly—we may decry the oil-drenched wildlife, the economic loss for the region, the spoiled beeches, the wrecked ecosystems, the massive disaster that could take decades if not longer to recover from, we, as Americans, cannot think smugly that we are somehow innocent of what has happened. You play with fire: you will get burned. You drill for oil 1,500 meters below the surface of the ocean, you open up oil holes across the surface of your supposedly-beloved landscape, sooner or later there will be a spill, and sometimes that spill will be catastrophic.
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