By Elizabeth Claire Alberts
There are trillions of microplastics in the ocean — they bob on the surface, float through the water column, and accumulate in clusters on the seafloor. With plastic being so ubiquitous, it's inevitable that marine organisms, such as sharks, will ingest them.
A new study in Scientific Reports investigated microplastic ingestion in four species of demersal sharks found in the North Atlantic Ocean, which were captured as bycatch by a local fishery in Penzance, U.K. A team of six researchers, from the University of Exeter and the University of Leeds, examined the stomachs and digestive tracts of 46 sharks, and found that 67% contained microplastics. A total of 379 microplastics — plastic particles or fibers smaller than 5 millimeters, or a fifth of an inch — were found in the sampled sharks.
Many of the plastic fibers were synthetic cellulose, the material found in polyester clothing and hygiene products such as face masks, which have become increasingly prevalent during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I think there is definitely some cause for concern," Kristian Parton, lead author of the study and researcher at the University of Exeter's Centre for Ecology and Conservation, told Mongabay in an email. "Although many of the particles ingested by these sharks will be excreted eventually, they potentially remain inside the body long enough for inorganic pollutants and chemicals (attached to the particles), to enter into the bodies of these sharks."
Parton said he found it surprising that sharks living off the coast of Penzance in Cornwall, on the southwestern tip of Britain, would contain so many plastic particles.
Polyproylene fibers found in one of the sampled sharks. Kristian Parton
"I actually didn't expect to find as many as we did in these sharks," he said. "The waters around Cornwall are thought to be some of the most beautiful in the U.K., and so I didn't think there would be much pollution."
Parton's co-author, Tamara Galloway, holds a similar view.
"We were not expecting to find microfibers from textiles in so many of our native shark species," Galloway, a marine biologist and professor of ecotoxicology at the University of Exeter, said in a statement. "Our study highlights how important it is to think before we throw things away."
Demersal sharks can be found at depths of 5 to 900 meters (16 to 3,000 feet), although they tend to live and feed in the demersal zone of the ocean, which is near the seafloor. The four species of demersal sharks used in this study included the small-spotted catshark (Scyliorhinus canicula), starry smooth-hound (Mustelus asterias), spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias) and bull huss (Scyliorhinus stellaris).
Spiny dogfish. NOAA / Wikimedia Commons
"There appear to be two routes for these particles to end up in the sharks," Parton said. "The first through their food source [such as] crustaceans. Their prey may already contain these fibers, and consequently it's passed to the shark through bioaccumulation up the food chain. The second pathway is direct ingestion from the sediment. As these sharks feed, they'll often suck up sediment into their mouths, some of this is expelled straight away, although some is swallowed, therefore fibers and particles that may have sunk down into the seabed may be directly ingested from the surrounding sediment as these sharks feed."
Some sharks only contained a few plastic particles, but others contained dozens. The larger the shark, the more plastic was in it, the findings suggested. The highest number of microplastics was found in an individual bull huss, which had 154 polypropylene fibers inside its stomach and intestines.
"It's perhaps likely this individual shark had swallowed a larger piece of fishing rope/netting and this has broken down during digestive processes within the shark, and also broken down into smaller pieces during our analysis," Parton said.
Lesser-spotted dogfish caught as bycatch. Kristian Parton
While this study only examined the stomach and digestive tracts of demersal sharks, Parton says it's possible that plastic would be present in other parts of the sharks' bodies, such as the liver and muscle tissue. However, more research would be needed to prove this.
At the moment, there is also limited understanding of how microplastic ingestion would impact a shark's health, although microplastics are known to negatively influence feeding behavior, development, reproduction and life span of zooplankton and crustaceans.
"If we can show that these fibers contain inorganic pollutants attached to them, then that could have real consequences for these shark species at a cellular level, impacting various internal body systems," Parton said.
Parton in the lab. Kristian Parton
This new study demonstrates how pervasive and destructive plastic pollution can be in the marine environment, according to Will McCallum, head of oceans for Greenpeace U.K.
"Our addiction to plastics combined with the lack of mechanisms to protect our oceans is suffocating marine life," McCallum said in a statement. "Sharks sit on top of the marine food web and play a vital role in ocean ecosystems. Yet, they are completely exposed to pollutants and other human impactful activities. We need to stop producing so much plastic and create a network of ocean sanctuaries to give wildlife space to recover. The ocean is not our dump, marine life deserves better than plastic."
Reposted with permission from Mongabay.
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Every day, sharks suffer from different threats. Up to 100 million sharks disappear every year, due to destructive fishing by humans and the impact of climate breakdown. One-third of the world's known shark species have been listed as "threatened" species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
We need to talk about them, because the ocean desperately needs sharks! After 400 million years of evolution, sharks are incredible creatures—master hunters with incredible precision. Sitting at the top of the food chain, they're central to maintaining the balance of marine ecosystems.
There are hundreds of species of sharks in the world, and they have been around since before the dinosaurs. Despite their fearsome Hollywood reputation, they are some of the most amazing animals on the planet.
1. Many sharks lay eggs, but some give birth to live young, just like we do. Shark pregnancies can last from a few months to well over a couple of years. That's longer than whales or elephants!
This whale shark smiles for the camera in the warm water off the coast of the Philippines. Greenpeace
2. Sharks come in all shapes and sizes, from the tiny lantern sharks, which are about the size of your hand, to giant whale sharks, which are about the same size as a bus.
A former fisherman, now a whale shark guide, hand feeds a whale shark as a tourist takes an underwater photo, Tan-awan, Oslob Cebu. Greenpeace
3. Greenland sharks, which live in cold polar waters, hold the record as the oldest known vertebrate animals on the planet. Since they are estimated to live as long as 500 years, there could be some alive today that were born in the Middle Ages. For reference, Leonardo Da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa 500 years ago!
An oceanic whitetip shark in Egypt. Greenpeace
4. Mako sharks hold the record for being the most athletic sharks, reaching swimming speeds of over 40 miles per hour! They are also known to have jumped as much as 30 feet out of the water.
A whale shark photographed from above in Cenderawasih Bay National Park, Indonesia. Greenpeace
5. The world's biggest sharks also have the widest mouths and eat only tiny ocean plankton, just like the largest whales.
A whale shark in the Philippines. Greenpeace
6. Carpet sharks live on the ocean floor and have elaborate patterns to blend in with perfect camouflage. The Tasseled Wobbegong shark takes this to the extreme, with a fringe of feathery 'tassels' around its body.
7. Epaulette sharks have developed a cunning ability to hold their breath and walk over rocks and land using their fins and tail. This lets them check out the seafood buffet in neighboring rock pools at low tide.
Lemon shark and other fish underwater at Tuamotus, French Polynesian. Greenpeace
8. Hammerhead sharks' elongated heads not only give them super-sense when it comes to electromagnetic detection, but they also have almost 360-degree surround vision.
A Blue Shark (Prionace glauca) near the Azores. Greenpeace
9. When sharks are turned upside down, they go into a natural suspended state called tonic immobility.
A shark is seen in the Republic of Palau. Greenpeace
10. It's dark in the deep sea, so tiny lantern sharks have developed their own way to glow in the dark. It's not yet known if this is to find food, find each other, or help avoid being eaten!
Grey Reef Sharks in Tahiti. Greenpeace
In June 2019, the Greenpeace ship Esperanza went to the North Atlantic to confront the overfishing of sharks. At the same time, Greenpeace International issued a report, Sharks Under Attack: Overfished and under-protected. It proposed a solution: secure a strong Global Ocean Treaty at the UN.
Reposted with permission from Greenpeace.
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Throughout Texas, there are a number of solar power companies that can install solar panels on your roof to take advantage of the abundant sunlight. But which solar power provider should you choose? In this article, we'll provide a list of the best solar companies in the Lone Star State.
Our Picks for the Best Texas Solar Companies
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
- Sunpro Solar
- Longhorn Solar, Inc.
- Solartime USA
- Kosmos Solar
- Sunshine Renewable Solutions
- Alba Energy
- Circle L Solar
- South Texas Solar Systems
- Good Faith Energy
How We Chose the Best Solar Energy Companies in Texas
There are a number of factors to keep in mind when comparing and contrasting different solar providers. These are some of the considerations we used to evaluate Texas solar energy companies.
Different solar companies may provide varying services. Always take the time to understand the full range of what's being offered in terms of solar panel consultation, design, installation, etc. Also consider add-ons, like EV charging stations, whenever applicable.
When meeting with a representative from one of Texas' solar power companies, we would always encourage you to ask what the installation process involves. What kind of customization can you expect? Will your solar provider use salaried installers, or outsourced contractors? These are all important questions to raise during the due diligence process.
Texas is a big place, and as you look for a good solar power provider, you want to ensure that their services are available where you live. If you live in Austin, it doesn't do you much good to have a solar company that's active only in Houston.
Pricing and Financing
Keep in mind that the initial cost of solar panel installation can be sizable. Some solar companies are certainly more affordable than others, and you can also ask about the flexible financing options that are available to you.
To guarantee that the renewable energy providers you select are reputable, and that they have both the integrity and the expertise needed, we would recommend assessing their status in the industry. The simplest way to do this is to check to see whether they are North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) certified or belong to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) or other industry groups.
Types of Panels
As you research different companies, it certainly doesn't hurt to get to know the specific products they offer. Inquire about their tech portfolio, and see if they are certified to install leading brands like Tesla or Panasonic.
Rebates and Tax Credits
There are a lot of opportunities to claim clean energy rebates or federal tax credits which can help with your initial solar purchase. Ask your solar provider for guidance navigating these different savings opportunities.
Going solar is a big investment, but a warranty can help you trust that your system will work for decades. A lot of solar providers provide warranties on their technology and workmanship for 25 years or more, but you'll definitely want to ask about this on the front end.
The 10 Best Solar Energy Companies in Texas
With these criteria in mind, consider our picks for the 10 best solar energy companies in TX.
SunPower is a solar energy company that makes it easy to make an informed and totally customized decision about your solar power setup. SunPower has an online design studio where you can learn more about the different options available for your home, and even a form where you can get a free online estimate. Set up a virtual consultation to speak directly with a qualified solar installer from the comfort of your own home. It's no wonder SunPower is a top solar installation company in Texas. They make the entire process easy and expedient.
Sunpro Solar is another solar power company with a solid reputation across the country. Their services are widely available to Texas homeowners, and they make the switch to solar effortless. We recommend them for their outstanding customer service, for the ease of their consultation and design process, and for their assistance to homeowners looking to claim tax credits and other incentives.
Looking for a solar contractor with true Texas roots? Longhorn Solar is an award-winning company that's frequently touted as one of the best solar providers in the state. Their services are available in Austin, Dallas, and San Antonio, and since 2009 they have helped more than 2,000 Texans make the switch to energy efficiency with solar. We recommend them for their technical expertise, proven track record, and solar product selection.
Solartime USA is another company based in Texas. In fact, this family-owned business is located in Richardson, which is just outside of Dallas. They have ample expertise with customized solar energy solutions in residential settings, and their portfolio of online reviews attests to their first-rate customer service. We love this company for the simplicity of their process, and for all the guidance they offer customers seeking to go solar.
Next on our list is Kosmos Solar, another Texas-based solar company. They're based in the northern part of the state, and highly recommended for homeowners in the area. They supply free estimates, high-quality products, custom solar designs, and award-winning personal service. Plus, their website has a lot of great information that may help guide you while you determine whether going solar is right for you.
Sunshine Renewable Solutions is based out of Houston, and they've developed a sterling reputation for dependable service and high-quality products. They have a lot of helpful financing options, and can show you how you can make the switch to solar in a really cost-effective way. We also like that they give free estimates, so there's certainly no harm in learning more about this great local company.
"Powered by the Texas sun." That's the official tagline of Alba Energy, a solar energy provider that's based out of Katy, TX. They have lots of great information about solar panel systems and solar solutions, including solar calculators to help you tabulate your potential energy savings. Additionally, we recommend Alba Energy because all of their work is done by a trusted, in-house team of solar professionals. They maintain an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau, and they have rave reviews from satisfied customers.
Circle L Solar has a praiseworthy mission of helping homeowners slash their energy costs while participating in the green energy revolution. This is another company that provides a lot of great information, including energy savings calculators. Also note that, in addition to solar panels, Circle L Solar also showcases a number of other assets that can help you make your home more energy efficient, including windows, weatherization services, LED lighting, and more.
You can tell by the name that South Texas Solar Systems focuses its service area on the southernmost part of the Lone Star State. Their products include a wide range of commercial and residential solar panels, as well as "off the grid" panels for homeowners who want to detach from public utilities altogether. Since 2007, this company has been a trusted solar energy provider in San Antonio and beyond.
Good Faith Energy is a certified installer of Tesla solar technology for homeowners throughout Texas. This company is really committed to ecological stewardship, and they have amassed a lot of goodwill thanks to their friendly customer service and the depth of their solar expertise. In addition to Tesla solar panels, they can also install EV charging stations and storage batteries.
What are Your Solar Financing Options in Texas?
We've mentioned already that going solar requires a significant investment on the front-end. It's worth emphasizing that some of the best solar companies provide a range of financing options, allowing you to choose whether you buy your system outright, lease it, or pay for it in monthly installments.
Also keep in mind that there are a lot of rebates and state and federal tax credits available to help offset starting costs. Find a Texas solar provider who can walk you through some of the different options.
How Much Does a Solar Energy System Cost in Texas?
How much is it going to cost you to make that initial investment into solar power? It varies by customer and by home, but the median cost of solar paneling may be somewhere in the ballpark of $13,000. Note that, when you take into account federal tax incentives, this number can fall by several thousand dollars.
And of course, once you go solar, your monthly utility bills are going to shrink dramatically… so while solar systems won't pay for themselves in the first month or even the first year, they will ultimately prove more than cost-effective.
Finding the Right Solar Energy Companies in TX
Texas is a great place to pursue solar energy companies, thanks to all the natural sunlight, and there are plenty of companies out there to help you make the transition. Do your homework, compare a few options, and seek the solar provider that's right for you. We hope this guide is a helpful jumping-off point as you try to get as much information as possible about the best solar companies in Texas.
Josh Hurst is a journalist, critic, and essayist. He lives in Knoxville, TN, with his wife and three sons. He covers natural health, nutrition, supplements, and clean energy. His writing has appeared in Health, Shape, and Remedy Review.
Maine may have experienced its first-ever fatal shark attack.
Officials in the Pine Tree State are investigating a possible shark attack that took place Monday and left one woman dead. If it's confirmed, it will go down in the books as Maine's first official deadly shark attack, ABC News reported.
The Maine Department of Marine Resources posted on Facebook that "an eye witness reported that the woman was swimming off the shore near White Sails Lane when she was injured in what appeared to be a shark attack. Kayakers nearby brought her to shore and EMS responders were called to the scene where she was pronounced deceased." The post went on to say, "Until further notice, swimmers and boaters are urged to use caution near Bailey Island and to avoid swimming near schooling fish or seals."
Bailey Island is in Casco Bay, just east of Yarmouth and Freeport. Maine Department of Marine Resources spokesman Jeff Nichols told the Boston Globe that he could not find records of any fatal attacks before Monday.
Nichols also told the Boston Globe that the last known shark attack occurred off the coast of Eastport in 2010, when a diver swam near salmon pens. Local news reports said the diver used his camera to fend off the shark and escaped unharmed, according to the Boston Globe.
The Boston Globe also reported that although It's unclear what kind of shark the diver saw, he believed it was a porbeagle.
James Sulikowski, a shark researcher in charge of Arizona State University's Sulikowski Shark and Fish Conservation Lab, has spent years researching white sharks in Maine in collaboration with the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy. He said there are eight shark species found off Maine's coast, but only white sharks are known to have attacked people, the Boston Globe reported.
When that happens, Sulikowski said, it's most likely because the shark has mistaken a human for a seal.
"The shark wasn't looking to eat this woman," Sulikowski told the Boston Globe. "It thought it was getting a seal. We've never been on their menu. We don't taste like what they want."
He added that white sharks try to take their prey by surprise. "They come up from below or behind, undetected, and just try to overpower their prey with a ferocious blow," he told the Boston Globe.
Sulikowski told The Portland Press Herald that it could have been a white shark attack. The Boston Globe reported that this past weekend, Sulikowski and his team were contacted about a dead seal on the beach in Phippsburg, near Bailey Island, that had a 19-inch bite mark in it.
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By Jonathan Booth
"We saw two swimming past our canoe the other day as we came to shore!"
"Yes, we saw one over towards the mangroves not so long ago…"
"There was one in our net near the big river…"
Scientists love having a mystery to solve and gathering clues to find out if something is real or not. Since January 2019 my organization, the Wildlife Conservation Society, has been collecting evidence to confirm whether highly endangered sawfish and their relatives — the wedgefish, guitarfish and giant guitarfish (collectively and affectionately known as "rhino rays") — live in the coastal waters of New Ireland Province, Papua New Guinea.
Sawfish and their rhino ray relatives — all cousins of sharks — are some of the most threatened species on Earth due to their slow growth, vulnerability to capture in fisheries, and high value in international trade. Recent studies indicate that Papua New Guinea is (together with northern Australia and the southeastern United States) one of the last few strongholds for sawfish populations, making the country a global priority for shark and ray conservation.
Currently sawfish and rhino rays have been well documented along the southern shores and adjacent river systems of Papua New Guinea, and also in the Sepik River, which drains into the Bismarck Sea on the northern coast of the mainland. Sawfish have also been documented in several other provinces in the country, yet no official records exist in New Ireland Province.
A Unique Site
The southwestern Pacific nation of Papua New Guinea is known for its renowned biodiversity, much of which lives nowhere else in the world. But that amazing animal and plant life is often both understudied and under threat.
This holds true in New Ireland.
The many islands of New Ireland Province, located in the Bismarck Archipelago, support coral reefs, mangroves, estuaries and tidal lagoons — typical habitats for rhino rays and sawfish. Some 77% of New Ireland's human population also lives in the coastal zone, where they're highly reliant on fish and other marine resources for food, livelihoods and traditional practices. Local communities also own most of this coastal zone through customary tenure systems, which may have been in place for centuries.
Human pressure, including population growth, could threaten potential sawfish and rhino ray populations unless sufficient management is in place — but local cooperation will be key to such action.
Over the past year and a half, WCS has conducted interviews in New Ireland's coastal areas. Part of the interviews involved showing images of each sawfish, wedgefish and guitarfish species, allowing respondents to identify what they saw. To date residents from 49 communities reported that they had seen sawfish and rhino rays in their local waters. There were 144 separate sightings reported by 111 respondents, which comprised 23 sawfish, 85 wedgefish and 36 guitarfish and giant guitarfish. Roughly half the respondents stated they had seen sawfish or rhino rays either often or sometimes.
Papua New Guinea occupies the western half of New Guinea and is the largest of the South Pacific Island nations. The uplifted reefs, limestone terrain and adjacent islands that form New Ireland Province comprise the north-easterly region of Papua New Guinea. From January 2019 to March 2020, fisher key informant surveys were conducted in coastal communities in western New Ireland Province to determine whether sawfish and rhino rays were observed within the customary waters of each community. A total of 144 sightings were made, including 85 wedgefish (blue), 36 guitarfish and giant guitarfish (green) and 23 sawfish (red) sightings. Source: WCS.
When asked if the animals were targeted by local fishers, more than half the respondents said no: The animals were mostly caught accidentally. Only 9% of the sighted sawfish and rhino rays were reported to have been purposefully caught.
Respondents also provided information on where, and in what condition, they had seen the animals: 77% were seen alive, 10% at the market and 2% entangled in nets.
The results suggest that while sawfish and rhino rays are in the region, they are not a key fishery commodity, which is promising news for developing conservation approaches.
Large-tooth sawfish (Pristis pristis) rostrum, beside a ruler, which was harvested by local community fishers from the Tigak Islands that lie to the west of mainland New Ireland. This rostrum measured nearly 30 inches in length. Photo: Jonathan Booth/WCS.
Further Evidence Needed
While physical and objective data has been lacking — I'm still waiting to see one of these animals in the water, myself — we have confirmed evidence of two large-tooth sawfish (Pristis pristis) in the region (two sawfish beaks, also known as rostra, have been found in community villages since this study began), and we've received reports of additional sightings.
WCS also conducted baited remote underwater video surveys (BRUVS) in 14 locations in the region in 2019-20, following a 2017 BURVS deployment by FinPrint in western New Ireland Province.
Collectively the BRUVS documented 13 species of sharks and rays, including wedgefish (which have also been photographed by local dive operators), but no sawfish.
Wedgefish in New Ireland Province: documented by BRUVS during the FinPrint project (left) and by scuba divers (Dorian Borcherds, Scuba Ventures) (right)
But with that success, we're expanding our search. Over the next 12 months, a further 100 BRUVS will be deployed in areas with a sandy seafloor, where wedgefish and giant guitarfish often rest. Because sawfish typically live in estuaries — where water is often murky — BRUVS will not work due to the poor visibility of the water. In these areas gillnets that have been carefully positioned in river outlets by trained local community members will be monitored for sawfish that may be present. If any sawfish are present in the nets, they will be documented and carefully released.
Opportunities for Conservation
Despite the vulnerability of sawfish and rhino rays — with five of the ten documented species in Papua New Guinea classified as critically endangered — there are currently no protection laws in place. However, since 2017, WCS has worked with over 100 communities in New Ireland Province to establish the country's largest network of marine protected areas.
The MPAs have been developed through a community-first approach, with extensive local outreach, engagement and education. In that way WCS has been actively informing local residents about the biology, threats and management opportunities for sawfish and rhino rays. We anticipate that new laws to protect and manage these endangered animals will be incorporated into the management rules for the new MPAs.
Example of education and outreach materials produced by the WCS team. This poster presents management methods that can be used by community residents to help manage sawfish and rhino ray populations in their customary waters.
While the mystery as to whether sawfish and rhino ray populations are alive and well in PNG has largely been solved, they are still rare and in need of additional conservation efforts. We hope that this work will help bring awareness and conservation action to these highly threatened species — and make sure they don't become mythical creatures of the past.
The opinions expressed above are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of The Revelator, the Center for Biological Diversity or their employees.
Jonathan Booth is a marine conservation advisor with the Papua New Guinea Program at WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society).
Reposted with permission from The Revelator.
By JoAnn Adkins
A landmark study by Global FinPrint reveals sharks are absent on many of the world's coral reefs, indicating they are functionally extinct — too rare to fulfill their normal role in the ecosystem.
Of the 371 reefs surveyed in 58 countries, sharks were not observed on nearly 20 percent, indicating a widespread decline that has gone undocumented on this scale until now. The Global FinPrint team, led by researchers at Florida International University (FIU), also identified conservation measures that could lead to recovery of these iconic predators.
Essentially no sharks were detected on any of the reefs in the Dominican Republic, the French West Indies, Kenya, Vietnam, the Windward Dutch Antilles and Qatar. Among these, a total of only three sharks were observed during more than 800 survey hours, according to the study published today in Nature.
"While Global FinPrint results exposed a tragic loss of sharks from many of the world's reefs, it also shows us signs of hope," said Jody Allen, co-founder and chair of the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation. "The data collected from the first-ever worldwide survey of sharks on coral reefs can guide meaningful, long-term conservation plans for protecting the reef sharks that remain."
This benchmark for the status of reef sharks around the world reveals an alarming global loss of these iconic species that are important food resources, tourism attractions, and top predators on coral reefs. Their loss is due in large part to overfishing of sharks, with the single largest contributor being destructive fishing practices, such as the use of longlines and gillnets.
"Although our study shows substantial negative human impacts on reef shark populations, it's clear the central problem exists in the intersection between high human population densities, destructive fishing practices, and poor governance," said Demian Chapman, Global FinPrint co-lead, associate professor in FIU's Department of Biological Sciences and researcher in the Institute of Environment. "We found that robust shark populations can exist alongside people when those people have the will, the means, and a plan to take conservation action."
The study revealed several countries where shark conservation is working and the specific actions that can work. The best performing nations compared to the average of their region included Australia, the Bahamas, the Federated States of Micronesia, French Polynesia, the Maldives and the United States. These nations reflect key attributes that were found to be associated with higher populations of sharks — being generally well-governed and either banning all shark fishing or having strong, science-based management limiting how many sharks can be caught.
"These nations are seeing more sharks in their waters because they have demonstrated good governance on this issue," said Aaron MacNeil, lead author of the Global FinPrint study and associate professor at Dalhousie University. "From restricting certain gear types and setting catch limits, to national-scale bans on catches and trade, we now have a clear picture of what can be done to limit catches of reef sharks throughout the tropics."
The FinPrint team is wrestling with the fact that conservation action on sharks alone can only go so far. Researchers are now looking at whether recovery of shark populations requires management of the wider ecosystem to ensure there are enough reef fish to feed these predators.
"Now that the survey is complete, we are also investigating how the loss of sharks can destabilize reef ecosystems," said Mike Heithaus, Global FinPrint co-lead and dean of the College of Arts, Sciences & Education at Florida International University. "At a time when corals are struggling to survive in a changing climate, losing reef sharks could have dire long-term consequences for entire reef systems."
Launched in the summer of 2015, Global FinPrint's data were generated from baited remote underwater video stations (BRUVS) that consist of a video camera placed in front of a standard amount of bait – a "Chum Cam." Coral reef ecosystems were surveyed with BRUVS in four key geographic regions: The Indo-Pacific, Pacific, the Western Atlantic and the Western Indian Ocean.
Over the course of four years, the team captured and analyzed more than 15,000 hours of video from surveys of 371 reefs in 58 countries, states and territories around the world. The work was conducted by hundreds of scientists, researchers, and conservationists organized by a network of collaborators from Florida International University, the Australian Institute of Marine Science, Curtin University, Dalhousie University, and James Cook University.
For more information and a new global interactive data-visualized map of the Global FinPrint survey results, visit https://globalfinprint.org.
Reposted with permission from Florida International University.
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The island of Tristan da Cunha. VictoriaJStokes / iStock / Getty Images Plus
To reach Tristan da Cunha, a UK overseas territory, one must make a seven-day boat trip from South Africa, reported National Geographic. The island chain recently announced that 700,000 square kilometers (270,271 square miles), or 90% of its territorial waters, will be designated as a large marine protected area (MPA) to safeguard the area's rich biodiversity and endangered animals, The Guardian reported. At that size, it will be three times the size of Britain, the largest marine sanctuary in the Atlantic and the fourth largest in the world, providing refuge to sevengill sharks, whales and seals, AP News continued.
The new wildlife refuge will be a "no-take" zone, baning bottom-trawling fishing, deep-sea mining and other harmful and extractive harvesting from its waters, National Geographic reported. This will also protect the foraging grounds of tens of millions of seabirds that roost on the island, such as endangered Tristan and yellow-nosed albatross, Atlantic petrel and rockhopper penguins. Critically, these protections will bolster the small Tristan Rock Lobster commercial fishery outside the sanctuary, which is the territory's most important source of income, AP News reported. This luxury crayfish is sold to the U.S., Europe, Japan and China.
Experts believe that MPAs are a "silver bullet for conservation," Earth.org noted. The World Economic Forum (WEF) found that MPAs worldwide protect food supplies by leading to larger catch yields through "spillover," where fish from protected areas reproduce and enter fishing hotspots in greater abundance. Expanding the current network of protected areas by just 5% could boost global fish catch by at least 20%, the WEF asserted.
The protected area will join the UK's Blue Belt Programme, which has funded 27 million pounds ($35.5 million) to promote marine conservation in UK overseas territories, AP News reported. The initiative has protected 11.1 million square kilometers (4.3 million square miles) of marine environment, or 1% of the world's oceans, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, the report added.
The program continues to inch closer to the global target of protecting 30% of the world's oceans by 2030. Scientists believe that this is the minimum required percentage of protected habitat to preserve biodiversity and safeguard ecosystems and their functions. According to National Geographic, roughly 8% of the world's oceans are currently designated as MPAs, but only 2.6% are totally off limits to fishing.
Johnson said, "We need collective global action if we are to bequeath a world that is every bit as wonderful and magnificent as the one we inherited," reported The Guardian.
According to Earth.org, the UK holds a duty to protect wildlife found in all its territories and will take charge of monitoring and enforcement within the new MPA. This is especially important because the nearest habitation, Saint Helena, is 2,400 km away. Through the Blue Belt Programme, Tristan da Cunha will receive more resources to patrol for illegal fishing activity. Earth.org reported.
The Pew Bertarelli project, which promotes the creation of marine reserves around the world, also committed to help the archipelago protect its waters with technology that uses real-time data to evaluate ocean conditions and human activity such as fishing, AP News reported. The project is a joint venture of the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Bertarelli Foundation.
"This small community is responsible for one of the biggest conservation achievements of 2020," Beccy Speight, chief executive of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) told AP News. "This will protect one of the most pristine marine environments on the planet."
James Glass, the territory's chief islander, said in a statement, "Our life on Tristan da Cunha has always been based around our relationship with the sea, and that continues today. That's why we're fully protecting 90% of our waters, and we're proud that we can play a key role in preserving the health of the oceans," reported AP News.
While the British government lauded the effort and called on other governments to take similar action to meet the ambitious 30%, some critics were not impressed. They noted the hypocrisy of encouraging others to act when the UK allows bottom-trawling in all but two of its domestic offshore MPAs, in another Guardian article.
Jonathan Hall, head of UK overseas territory unit at the RSPB, told Earth.org, "We should also be looking at protecting UK waters. The contrast is stark. We have this small community that is showing leadership in protecting their waters, but there have been lots of examples this year where more effective management of our existing protected areas is needed."
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The world's oceans and coastal ecosystems can store remarkable amounts of carbon dioxide. But if they're damaged, they can also release massive amounts of emissions back into the atmosphere.
The report was the first of its kind to quantify blue carbon -- carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere from ocean ecosystems -- across the 50 UNESCO Marine World Heritage sites. The report found six marine World Heritage Sites in Australia hold 40 percent of the estimated five billion tons of carbon dioxide stored in mangrove, seagrass and tidal marsh ecosystems within these sites, Edith Cowan University wrote in a statement.
"We know Australia contains some of the world's largest stores of blue carbon due to the enormous size and diversity of our marine ecosystems," the report author and ECU research fellow Dr. Oscar Serrano said, according to ECU. Included in these six marine World Heritage sites are Australia's Great Barrier Reef, Ningaloo Coast and Shark Bay World Heritage areas, which together contain a majority of Australia's blue carbon habitats. "However, here in Australia and around the world, these ecosystems are under threat from human development and climate change," Serrano added.
These threats include pollution, like plastic litter, and climate change, UNESCO reported. This is an increasing problem not just in Australia, but among marine World Heritage sites globally, including ecosystems like the Sundarbans mangroves in India and Bangladesh, Everglades National Park in the U.S., the Wadden Sea in Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands, UNESCO noted.
Although blue carbon ecosystems represent less than one percent of the global ocean area, they store about half of the carbon dioxide via the world's oceans, absorbing carbon 30 times faster than rainforests, ECU wrote in a statement. But if these blue carbon ecosystems are not conserved, they could increase global carbon emissions.
"While they're healthy, blue carbon ecosystems are excellent stores of carbon dioxide, but if they are damaged, they can release huge amounts of carbon dioxide stored over millennia back into the atmosphere," Serrano added, according to ECU.
In 2011, for example, nine million tons of stored carbon dioxide were released following a marine heatwave that killed about one-third of the area's seagrass in the Shark Bay, The Guardian reported.
To avoid similar events, the report's authors call for conservation efforts like blue carbon strategies, where countries could earn carbon credits for restoring damaged ecosystems that store carbon, UNESCO reported.
"By quantifying the carbon value of these sites and recommending specific blue carbon strategies to conserve them, UNESCO's research findings point the way for countries, regions, and local communities seeking to conserve these areas and pursue blue carbon strategies," UNESCO wrote in a press release. This could mean including assets, like investing in the restoration and conservation of blue carbon ecosystems, into Nationally Determined Contributions, each country's pledged actions in the Paris agreement.
Currently, the Australian government is leading by example, developing a system to create carbon credits for restoration projects on increasing blue carbon stocks in marine ecosystems, The Guardian reported.
"There are significant opportunities for both the Great Barrier Reef and Shark Bay to be protected and restored to ensure they survive and thrive in the future," Serrano added, according to ECU.
When Jasmin Graham describes her research on smalltooth sawfish, a critically endangered ray with a unique "saw" at the front of its face, she explains how "nothing else looks like this in the ocean; those species evolved to do something no other shark or ray can do." It resonates, and people understand why diversity matters in sharks, she said. She expanded on this same concept to emphasize how diversity also matters in finding solutions to the challenges that threaten elasmobranchs and in those scientists doing that work.
As a result, Graham, a young, black female shark scientist, found herself chatting on Twitter via the #BlackInNature hashtag with Amani Webber-Schultz, Carlee Jackson and Jaida Elcock, three other young, black female shark scientists from around the country.
They were excited to find each other and soon created a space for other women of color in shark science — MISS — to connect and not feel as alone.
"MISS means Minorities in Shark Science, and it really started because we didn't see representation in the sciences, and that matters a lot when you're young," said Jackson.
"We need to start acting to address these disparities if we don't want to exclude yet another generation of talented scientists," said Rahma Elmahdi, an inclusion expert, reported BBC.
Graham told EcoWatch how she "didn't know marine science was a thing" growing up. Her family fished and enjoyed the beach but never ventured below the water's surface for fear of sharks and the inability to swim. When the scientists first showed interest in marine biology, her parents were supportive but could not provide her access to an actual marine scientist.
Graham had to figure it out on her own until a collegiate advisor went out of his way to mentor her in shark science and encourage graduate study.
"One of the reasons we started MISS is we recognized that we all are very lucky we had someone who stepped in and guided us," she said, "but what happens to the people who don't have someone step in? Do they just fail? That isn't fair."
MISS wants to become that "someone who steps in and helps," Graham explained. Beyond that, the founders, who also serve as the executive board, envision the organization becoming a community of minority scientists who can rely on each other and provide the type of support that none of them experienced until they found each other a month ago.
Jasmin Graham downloads data from an acoustic receiver. Jasmin Graham
"We strive to be seen and take up space in a discipline which has been largely inaccessible for women like us," the board stated. "We strive to be positive role models for the next generation."
Each of the scientists emphasized the importance of innovation for science and of diversity for innovation.
"We believe diversity in the field creates more diversity in the knowledge and solutions," said Jackson.
Life experiences and world views have a huge impact on how people think about and address global problems, Graham added. More perspectives leads to more creative ideas and solutions. Homogeneity in problem solvers leads to homogeneity in thought patterns and, often, to dead ends.
Fisheries science is grappling with this challenge, she said, often "running in circles" until they ask local indigenous communities to share their knowledge.
"If you don't have everyone at the table, you don't have all the information," Graham said, "And science is all about data."
Representation in policy decisions and research is paramount to creating the most inclusive, effective and long-lasting solutions, the board postured.
MISS is quickly gaining traction, already fundraising $20,000 of their $25,000 initial goal. The money will fund travel stipends and professional development workshops to 18 new minority women shark scientists next March and April.
Many people of color struggle with financial barriers to gain access and develop skills that would make them successful marine biologists, Elcock said, because most internships are unpaid or require payment for participation. The founders intend for the hands-on workshops, which will take place on the Field School research vessel where Webber-Schulz is a current fellow, to provide participants with critical field experience and to kick start their networks of minority shark scientists.
They also will focus on outreach to the younger generation, to be the role models they didn't see for young, budding scientists of color.
"We want to make it clear that women of color belong in shark science, even if you don't see them yet," said Webber-Schulz. "We do exist and we are here to stay."
Elcock summarized, "If we don't have diversity, science loses. Everyone loses."
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bpperry / Getty Images
By Tara Lohan
Each year the amount of plastic swirling in ocean gyres and surfing the tide toward coastal beaches seems to increase. So too does the amount of plastic particles being consumed by fish — including species that help feed billions of people around the world.
A new study published in the journal Global Change Biology revealed that the rate of plastic consumption by marine fish has doubled in the last decade and is increasing by more than 2% a year.
The study also revealed new information about what species are most affected and where the risks are greatest.
The researchers did a global analysis of mounting studies of plastic pollution in the ocean and found data on plastic ingestion for 555 species of marine and estuarine fish. Their results showed that 386 fish species — two-thirds of all species — had ingested plastic. And of those, 210 were species that are commercially fished.
Not surprisingly, places with an abundance of plastic in surface waters, such as East Asia, led to a higher likelihood of plastic ingestion by fish.
But fish type and behavior, researchers found, also plays a role. Active predators — those at the top of the food chain, like members of the Sphyrnidae family, which includes hammerhead and bonnethead sharks — ingested the most plastic. Grazers and filter‐feeders consumed the least.
Blue shark at Cape Point, South Africa, 2016. Steve Woods / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
"Overall, the likelihood of plastic ingestion decreases with depth," the researchers found.
Although bioaccumulation of plastic and its associated chemicals can cause health problems, this isn't causing noticeable fish population problems — yet. The research revealed that the majority of the species they found to have ingested plastic remain abundant.
But at the same time, 35 species were listed as threatened or near threatened. Another 26 species are vulnerable to overfishing. The authors identified the blue shark, Atlantic bluefin tuna and chinook salmon as "species of high concern due to their threatened status, vulnerability to overfishing and frequent plastic ingestion."
Meanwhile the researchers found that three-quarters of commercially fished species ingested plastic, including ones common in recreational fisheries and aquaculture that "have the highest likelihood to be part of the supply chain." Common sole was found to be "most worrisome."
Even more troubling is that there's still a lot we don't know because some areas are better studied than others.
Some nearshore areas are among those where research is lacking. "Only four studies were conducted within the continental United States' Exclusive Economic Zone, despite more marine plastic originating from the United States than any other developed nation," the researchers wrote.
Oceanic gyres, those swirling eddies of plastic in the open ocean, are also a black hole when it comes to research. "We uncovered no studies from the Indian, South Atlantic or western North Pacific gyres though there is extensive knowledge of surface debris accumulation in these regions," they found. "Similarly, there was a paucity of data from high‐latitude seas and none from the Southern Ocean, even though the polar oceans are a sink for microplastic debris with new fisheries developing in these regions as ice retreats and climate changes."
By comparison, coastal waters — including estuaries — are well studied, as are the seas surrounding Europe. And they found a "recent flurry of studies" from East Asia.
Even with a growing amount of research, the scope and severity of the problem is likely still underestimated.
Filling in these knowledge gaps will be crucial to better understand the extent of the problem, but the researchers say we'll also need to study top predators more to learn how plastic bioaccumulates in the food chain and how these mobile predators may redistribute plastic across the ocean as they travel.
Little is known about how ingested plastic affects fish and marine ecosystems, and even less about how human health could be affected when plastic-eating fish end up on the dinner table.
"Current evidence for humans ingesting plastic directly from fish remains scant, but there is growing concern," the researchers wrote. "In particular, the continued aggregation and analysis of information on plastic ingestion by marine fish is vital as these data are inextricably linked to ecosystem and human health."
Tara Lohan is deputy editor of The Revelator and has worked for more than a decade as a digital editor and environmental journalist focused on the intersections of energy, water and climate. Her work has been published by The Nation, American Prospect, High Country News, Grist, Pacific Standard and others. She is the editor of two books on the global water crisis.
Reposted with permission from The Revelator.
In his latest documentary, 27-year-old British filmmaker Ali Tabrizi calls out the commercial fishing industry for harming the oceans in the pursuit of fish. Since its release, the polarizing film has gone viral and climbed to Netflix's top ten across the globe. The exposé has sparked countless questions about and investigation into the seafood industry's claims and practices.
Tabrizi opens the film with scenes from his childhood. His love of the ocean came from watching orcas and dolphins perform in marine theme parks. As an adult, he came to understand the harm associated with captive mammals. The storyline quickly progresses to cover mass dolphin killing in Taiji, Japan along with overfishing for tuna. Everything is connected, and the chain of destruction goes on until "the documentary loses its shock factor" because "the bleak statistics cease to surprise," reported The Independent. The message is clear: "we are destroying sea life at rapid speed."
Seaspiracy alleges that overfishing for tuna helps keep demand and prices high. Netflix
In the film, Sylvia Earle, famed marine biologist and ocean explorer, warns that since humans excel at extracting enormous amounts of marine life from the sea, commercial fishing itself will go extinct because eventually there will be no fish left.
A Thrillist review said Seaspiracy connects all of the dots between commercial fishing, ocean destruction and slavery with a "wobbly line" and the "indictment of the myth of sustainability."
With each new scene, Tabrizi reveals the fraud, corruption and greed currently destroying the oceans. Through figures and expert cameos, he claims:
- Discarded plastic fishing gear accounts for most ocean debris and is killing whales and other animals;
- The oceans will be emptied of fish in 27 years;
- Safe seafood labels are compromised by "pay-to-play" profit structures and lack enforcement;
- Overfishing is more damaging to the environment than deforestation;
- Farmed fish are disease-ridden, pollution-creating and resource-intensive;
- Thai fishing fleets use slave labor to remain profitable;
- "Sustainable seafood" is a myth; and
- The only solution is to stop eating fish.
Shark bycatch is seen being dumped overboard in West Africa. Sea Shepherd
Tabrizi's takeaway is a scathing condemnation of the multibillion-dollar seafood industry and the governments, groups and companies complicit with the ocean's destruction. Seaspiracy calls for a collective shift away from eating seafood and toward vegan and plant-based alternatives.
"The amount of fish being taken out of the ocean is absolutely stunning — five million fish a minute," Sea Shepherd Conservation Society Founder Capt. Paul Watson told EcoWatch. "We're strip-mining life from the sea. There is no sustainable fishery anywhere on the planet."
The marine conservation organization, known and sometimes criticized for its direct action techniques, features prominently in Tabrizi's film. Tabrizi films from Sea Shepherd ships as they confront an illegal Chinese fishing vessel and encounter starving artisanal fishers in West Africa who have lost their jobs and food source to industrial fisheries.
When asked if the state of the oceans is as dire as depicted in Seaspiracy, Watson told EcoWatch, "I think it's actually worse than presented in this film. For the most part, these problems are out of sight, out of mind. And, if the ocean dies, we die."
The Sea Shepherd fleet of ships patrols the world's waters. Thomas Le / Sea Shepherd
To date, millions have watched the documentary, and reactions from viewers and marine organizations run the gamut.
"I think it was a brilliant film," Watson said. "It's the first opportunity to get the message out about what's happening in our oceans. Many people are being confronted with information that they never paid attention to before."
One Twitter user agreed, saying, "So modern fishing with nets large enough to sweep up cathedrals is wiping out ocean ecosystems which we rely on to regulate the planet. We are literally killing ourselves...." Another user urged, "Do watch it if you care about oceans/fish. I'm gonna stop eating fish, starting today. A must watch."
Critics of the film have also been vocal, denouncing the underlying facts presented, the film's possible vegan agenda and its reductionist and sensationalist approach, Global Aquaculture Alliance reported. The New York Times likened the tone to "a cheap imitation of hard-hitting investigative journalism" full of "conspiratorial thinking." Some accused the film of perpetuating a "white savior complex," The Independent reported.
Leading seafood certification group Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), a target throughout the documentary, refused Tabrizi's numerous interview requests. After the documentary's release, MSC agreed that, "There is a crisis in our oceans, and an urgent need to end overfishing." The organization also rebutted, "... it is wrong to claim that there is no such thing [as] sustainable fishing and that the only solution is to stop eating fish. Some of the problems that the film highlights — bycatch, overfishing and destruction of marine ecosystems — are precisely the issues the MSC certification process is designed to address."
Sea Shepherd Founder Paul Watson considers commercial fishing the biggest threat to the future of the oceans. Sea Shepherd
Mark J. Palmer, who is connected to the Earth Island Institute, the firm that manages the "dolphin-safe" label for tuna, is featured in a pivotal scene in the film. On camera, Tabrizi asks Palmer whether he can guarantee that all tuna cans labeled dolphin-safe caused no harm to dolphins. The latter responds, "Nope. Nobody can," and justifies his answer by saying, "Once you're out there in the ocean, how do you know what [fishermen are] doing? We have observers onboard — observers can be bribed and are not out on a regular basis."
Palmer has since tried to dampen his statement and suggests that Seaspiracy took his remarks out of context, IntraFish, a seafood news site, reported. Newsweek fact-checked the film's claims and Palmer's defenses and concluded that "[b]ased on comments made by the Earth Island Institute and other experts, it is not possible to say whether all canned tuna that is labeled 'dolphin-friendly' is guaranteed to have not harmed dolphins in the fishing process."
Regardless of whether or not they are fans of the film, most conservationists and scientists agree that the oceans matter in the fight against the climate crisis, both for providing food security for millions worldwide along with protecting cultural ways of life.
According to The Guardian, Callum Roberts, a marine conservationist featured in Seaspiracy, offered this conclusion for the film's critics: "My colleagues may rue the statistics, but the basic thrust of it is we are doing a huge amount of damage to the ocean and that's true. At some point, you run out. Whether it's 2048 or 2079, the question is: 'Is the trajectory in the wrong direction or the right direction?'"
By Anthony Richardson, Chhaya Chaudhary, David Schoeman, and Mark John Costello
The tropical water at the equator is renowned for having the richest diversity of marine life on Earth, with vibrant coral reefs and large aggregations of tunas, sea turtles, manta rays and whale sharks. The number of marine species naturally tapers off as you head towards the poles.
Ecologists have assumed this global pattern has remained stable over recent centuries — until now. Our recent study found the ocean around the equator has already become too hot for many species to survive, and that global warming is responsible.
In other words, the global pattern is rapidly changing. And as species flee to cooler water towards the poles, it's likely to have profound implications for marine ecosystems and human livelihoods. When the same thing happened 252 million years ago, 90% of all marine species died.
The Bell Curve is Warping Dangerously
If you look at each line in this chart, you can see a slight dip in total species richness between 1955 and 1974. This deepens substantially in the following decades. Anthony Richardson, Author provided
This global pattern — where the number of species starts lower at the poles and peaks at the equator — results in a bell-shaped gradient of species richness. We looked at distribution records for nearly 50,000 marine species collected since 1955 and found a growing dip over time in this bell shape.
So, as our oceans warm, species have tracked their preferred temperatures by moving towards the poles. Although the warming at the equator of 0.6℃ over the past 50 years is relatively modest compared with warming at higher latitudes, tropical species have to move further to remain in their thermal niche compared with species elsewhere.
As ocean warming has accelerated over recent decades due to climate change, the dip around at the equator has deepened.
We predicted such a change five years ago using a modeling approach, and now we have observational evidence.
For each of the 10 major groups of species we studied (including pelagic fish, reef fish and molluscs) that live in the water or on the seafloor, their richness either plateaued or declined slightly at latitudes with mean annual sea-surface temperatures above 20℃.
Today, species richness is greatest in the northern hemisphere in latitudes around 30°N (off southern China and Mexico) and in the south around 20°S (off northern Australia and southern Brazil).
This Has Happened Before
We shouldn't be surprised global biodiversity has responded so rapidly to global warming. This has happened before, and with dramatic consequences.
252 million years ago…
At the end of the Permian geological period about 252 million years ago, global temperatures warmed by 10℃ over 30,000-60,000 years as a result of greenhouse gas emissions from volcano eruptions in Siberia.
A 2020 study of the fossils from that time shows the pronounced peak in biodiversity at the equator flattened and spread. During this mammoth rearranging of global biodiversity, 90% of all marine species were killed.
125,000 years ago…
A 2012 study showed that more recently, during the rapid warming around 125,000 years ago, there was a similar swift movement of reef corals away from the tropics, as documented in the fossil record. The result was a pattern similar to the one we describe, although there was no associated mass extinction.
Authors of the study suggested their results might foreshadow the effects of our current global warming, ominously warning there could be mass extinctions in the near future as species move into the subtropics, where they might struggle to compete and adapt.
During the last ice age, which ended around 15,000 years ago, the richness of forams (a type of hard-shelled, single-celled plankton) peaked at the equator and has been dropping there ever since. This is significant as plankton is a keystone species in the foodweb.
Our study shows that decline has accelerated in recent decades due to human-driven climate change.
The Profound Implications
Losing species in tropical ecosystems means ecological resilience to environmental changes is reduced, potentially compromising ecosystem persistence.
In subtropical ecosystems, species richness is increasing. This means there'll be species invaders, novel predator-prey interactions, and new competitive relationships. For example, tropical fish moving into Sydney Harbour compete with temperate species for food and habitat.
This could result in ecosystem collapse — as was seen at the boundary between the Permian and Triassic periods — in which species go extinct and ecosystem services (such as food supplies) are permanently altered.
The changes we describe will also have profound implications for human livelihoods. For example, many tropical island nations depend on the revenue from tuna fishing fleets through the selling of licenses in their territorial waters. Highly mobile tuna species are likely to move rapidly toward the subtropics, potentially beyond sovereign waters of island nations.
Similarly, many reef species important for artisanal fishers — and highly mobile megafauna such as whale sharks, manta rays and sea turtles that support tourism — are also likely to move toward the subtropics.
The movement of commercial and artisanal fish and marine megafauna could compromise the ability of tropical nations to meet the Sustainable Development Goals concerning zero hunger and marine life.
Is There Anything We Can Do?
One pathway is laid out in the Paris Climate Accords and involves aggressively reducing our emissions. Other opportunities are also emerging that could help safeguard biodiversity and hopefully minimise the worst impacts of it shifting away from the equator.
Currently 2.7% of the ocean is conserved in fully or highly protected reserves. This is well short of the 10% target by 2020 under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.
But a group of 41 nations is pushing to set a new target of protecting 30% of the ocean by 2030.
This "30 by 30" target could ban seafloor mining and remove fishing in reserves that can destroy habitats and release as much carbon dioxide as global aviation. These measures would remove pressures on biodiversity and promote ecological resilience.
Designing climate-smart reserves could further protect biodiversity from future changes. For example, reserves for marine life could be placed in refugia where the climate will be stable over the foreseeable future.
We now have evidence that climate change is impacting the best-known and strongest global pattern in ecology. We should not delay actions to try to mitigate this.
Anthony Richardson: Professor, The University of Queensland. Chhaya Chaudhary: University of Auckland, David Schoeman: Professor of Global-Change Ecology, University of the Sunshine Coast, Mark John Costello: Professor, University of Auckland
Disclosure statement: Anthony Richardson receives funding from the Australian Research Council.
Chhaya Chaudhary works for Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main, Germany. During her PhD studies (2014- 2019), she received part- funding from the European Marine Observation Data Network (EMODnet) Biology project funded by the European Commission's Directorate—General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (DG MARE), and received U21 Doctoral Mobility Scholarship from the University of Auckland in 2016.
David Schoeman receives funding from the Australian Research Council.
Mark John Costello does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Reposted with permission from The Conversation.
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A 26-year-old man was killed by a shark as he was surfing near a state beach in Northern California on Saturday, according to authorities, as The New York Times reported.
Ben Kelly was roughly 100 yards from shore at Manresa State Beach near Santa Cruz when a shark attacked him around 1:30 p.m., the California Department of Parks and Recreation said on Sunday, according to The New York Times. While the beach was closed to encourage social distancing, the water was open for people to engage in water sports, like surfing and swimming.
A witness flagged down a lifeguard patrolling the area. Since the attack, the beach and water are now closed until May 14. The water is off-limits for one mile north and south of the attack and signs have been posted to inform potential beachgoers of the presence of sharks, according to the AP.
Monterey Bay drone photographer Eric Mailander told KRON he has observed dozens of great white sharks swimming near the shoreline in recent days. He said he counted 15 sharks while out on his boat Saturday morning, as the AP reported.
The species of shark that attacked Mr. Kelly is still unknown, the Department of Parks and Recreation said in a statement.
Simon R. Thorrold, a senior scientist in the biology department at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Falmouth, Massachusetts, said in an interview that his "best guess" was that it was a great white shark, as The New York Times reported.
"White sharks are big enough and their teeth are so sharp that even a halfhearted attempt will cause significant injuries," he said.
Fatal shark attacks are rare along the Northern California coast, although it is a major breeding ground for the great white shark, according to KPIX, San Francisco's CBS affiliate. There have been at least two other fatal attacks since 1984, KPIX noted, but those involved divers. In March, a shark bit the board of a paddleboarder near Capitola, narrowly missing him, according to the sheriff's office.
"Hippos kill way more people every year than sharks do," Thorrold said to The New York Times. He added that while sharks prefer not to eat humans, the silhouette of a surfboard with a paddling surfer can resemble a seal from under the water.
"Seals are part of their natural prey," Thorrold told The New York Times. "It is not unreasonable to think that the shark thinks it is a seal and gets to the surfer and realizes pretty quickly it does not want to eat it. By that time, the shark has done enough damage to the human that it can end in tragedy."
According to The Washington Post, Kelly described himself as a self-taught surfboard shaper on his company's website. He wrote that his boards are "well represented here at home in Santa Cruz, California" as well as in Bali, South Africa, Mexico, Central America, Peru and Hawaii. Video posted on the site shows him shaping a surfboard.
"What started as a way to fuel my own surfing passion has now become a way to stoke out my fellow surfers, and that is truly fulfilling for me," Kelly said in his bio. "It's the way I have found to give back to others."
On the other side of the world, a shark bit a French surfer in Australia, but the surfer was able to get away. Video of the incident shows Dylan Nacass and Matt Sedunary yelling and scrambling to get away from a stalking shark, as The Guardian reported.
Nacass, 23, punched the shark twice when it attacked him at Bells Beach in Victoria, according to Sky News. He needed stitches for his puncture wounds.
"I punched him one time, he stay in my legs. Two times after, he go," he told television news in Australia.
Matt Sedunary heard screaming and thought Nacass was joking around. After realizing the seriousness of the situation, he rushed to help, as Sky News reported.
"I'm not gonna just ditch this guy," he said. "Most people would do the same thing."
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