By Tim Radford
German scientists now know why so many fish are so vulnerable to ever-warming oceans. Global heating imposes a harsh cost at the most critical time of all: the moment of spawning.
Nearing the Brink<p>Since <a href="https://climatenewsnetwork.net/abundant-fish-need-cool-seas-and-protection/" target="_blank">fish in the temperate zones already experience a wide variation</a> in seasonal water temperatures, it hasn't been obvious why species such as <a href="https://climatenewsnetwork.net/sardines-swim-into-northern-waters-to-keep-cool/" target="_blank">cod have shifted nearer the Arctic, and sardines have migrated to the North Sea</a>.</p><p>But <a href="https://climatenewsnetwork.net/ocean-warming-spurs-marine-life-to-rapid-migration/" target="_blank">marine creatures are on the move</a>, and although there are other factors at work, including overfishing and <a href="https://climatenewsnetwork.net/fish-cant-smell-well-in-more-acidic-seas/" target="_blank">the increasingly alarming changes in ocean chemistry</a>, thanks to ever-higher levels of dissolved carbon dioxide, temperature change is part of the problem.</p><p>The latest answer, Dr Dahlke and his colleagues report in the journal <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/cgi/doi/10.1126/science.aaz3658" target="_blank">Science</a>, is that many fish may already be living near the limits of their thermal tolerance.</p><p>The temperature safety margins during the moments of spawning and embryo might be very precise, and over hundreds of thousands of years of evolution, marine and freshwater species have worked out just what is best for the next generation. Rapid global warming upsets this equilibrium.</p>
Illegal fishing appeared to spike during the Philippines' lockdown period as commercial fishers took advantage of reduced patrols to ply coastal waters that they're prohibited from fishing in, satellite tracking data indicate.
Satellite data record illegal fishing vessels, appearing as red dots, encroaching within municipal waters, shown as blue lines, from May 16 to 22, 2020. Karagatan Patrol
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Along many tropical shorelines, swampy mangrove forests create habitat for fish and buffer the impact of heavy waves.
A healthy coral reef is a noisy place.
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By Tara Lohan
Most of us have never been to the world's immense last wilderness and never will. It's beyond the horizon and often past the limits of our imaginations. It contains towering underwater mountain ranges, ancient corals, mysterious, unknown forms of life and the largest seagrass meadow in the world.
The Need for Protection<p>We're all connected to the high seas, even if we never actually see them, says Morgan Visalli, a project scientist at Benioff Ocean Initiative at U.C. Santa Barbara. "It's incredibly important for helping to regulate the climate, for providing oxygen, food and jobs."</p><p>Even on land we depend on a healthy ocean. Phytoplankton in the ocean <a href="https://therevelator.org/phytoplankton-climate-change/" target="_blank">generate half our oxygen</a>, and the ocean plays a key role in mitigating climate change — absorbing 25 percent of our CO2 emissions and 90 percent of heat related to those emissions. It's also home to a rich diversity of species, some of which we're still discovering.</p><p>But marine ecosystems face grave threats from an onslaught of abuses: chemical, plastic and noise pollution; deep seabed mining and other kinds of resource extraction; increased shipping; overfishing and illegal fishing; and <a href="https://therevelator.org/ocean-climate-change/" target="_blank">climate change</a>, which is altering both the temperature and chemistry of the waters.</p>
Cargo ship at sea. Bernard Spragg / public domain<p>Numerous strategies are needed to tackle these problems, including the bedrock component of reducing greenhouse gases.</p><p>But a key tool that scientists have identified to help restore biodiversity is establishing reserves, often referred to as ocean parks or marine protected areas.</p><p>We know pretty well how to do this in national waters — there are <a href="https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/articles/2018/02/22/how-much-of-the-ocean-is-really-protected" target="_blank">more than 15,000</a> of them already in places like Australia's Great Barrier Reef and the Florida Keys. But few such protected areas exist in the high seas because there is no international framework to guide the process. One such effort to establish a marine protected area in Antarctica's Ross Sea took years of research and diplomacy to implement.</p><p>It's simply not feasible to scale the process — especially in the time we'd need to do it. That's why creating such a framework for marine protected areas in waters outside of national waters is a key part of the new high-seas treaty negotiations.</p><p>And that fits into a larger global vision.</p><p>The participant nations in another international treaty, the Convention on Biological Diversity, are set to convene this fall. The agenda includes a goal of enacting an international framework to protect 30% of the oceans by 2030.</p><p>It's a goal that scientists call a bare minimum. And it's one that may be impossible to meet without the high-seas treaty.</p><p>"The science is clear, if we're going to sustain a healthy, functioning ocean ecosystem, we need to be protecting at least 30% of the world's oceans," said Liz Karan, who leads <a href="https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/projects/protecting-ocean-life-on-the-high-seas" target="_blank">efforts to protect the high seas</a> for Pew Charitable Trusts, a member of the High Seas Alliance.</p><p>In anticipation of the treaty's passage, scientists like Visalli and McCauley have already started modeling how new <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0308597X19309194#!" target="_blank">priority areas could be identified</a>.</p>
The Challenges<p>Of course the devil is in the details.</p><p>While thousands of marine protected areas already exist, they come with varying levels of protections — much like we see with public lands. Some can be very restrictive, like national parks, or continue to allow extractive activities, such as in national forests.</p><p>Current marine protected areas range from no-take reserves that ban all extraction to areas allowing multiple uses — the latter are more common. Not surprisingly, though, <a href="https://academic.oup.com/icesjms/article/75/3/1166/4098821" target="_blank">scientific studies</a> have shown that the no-take reserves do a much better job at protecting and restoring biodiversity.</p><p>Whether the treaty will be a landmark conservation effort or enshrine the status quo has yet to be determined, said Karan. "Both potential pathways are currently reflected in the draft treaty text" at this time.</p><p>From a scientific standpoint, McCauley says, marine protected areas should actually protect the wild character of the area and that means no activities — like mining or bottom trawling — that would disturb habitat. And the protections need to extend down from the ocean's surface, through the water column, to the seafloor.</p>
A kelp forest in a marine protected area off the coast of California. Camille Pagniello / CC BY 2.0<p>To do that means figuring out how the new treaty would fit with a tangle of more than 20 existing governance organizations that regulate seabed mining, fisheries management and shipping regulations.</p><p>"One of our hopes is that this treaty would knit those pieces together and provide a little bit more coherence and compatibility with those issues, particularly with regards to conservation and sustainable use," said Karan.</p><p>There would also need to be a process for scientifically evaluating areas proposed for protections, and how the established reserves would be managed, and the restrictions enforced.</p><p>"The whole process, the whole vision and opportunity to think about doing something smarter and better — for the ocean, for biodiversity, for us — ends if we don't get strong language in the treaty and get that treaty to pass," said McCauley. "There's historical potential for the oceans, but we need to make sure people on the outside are watching the people on the inside [at the United Nations] in New York."</p>
Road Ahead<p>Even though official treaty negotiations are on hold awaiting a decision on rescheduling the talks, work continues among governments as they review and refine their positions on numerous proposals submitted by states and NGOs.</p><p>The United States has been a participant in the talks, but the treaty process has largely flown under the radar among the general public so far. Given President Trump's position on <a href="https://therevelator.org/environment-deregulation-trump-two-years/" target="_blank">environmental protections</a> and distain for <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/04/climate/trump-paris-agreement-climate.html" target="_blank">multilateralism</a> (like the Paris climate agreement), that's been pretty intentional on the part of environmental NGOs.</p><p>But as efforts may be nearing the finish line, this is starting to shift. Karan says there's more interest from legislators about high seas governance and more need to have an engaged public who can advocate for strong conservation protections.</p><p>Things are complicated, though, by the fact that the United States never ratified the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention, widely considered a "Constitution" for the ocean.</p><p>There is hope from some of the participants that the United States could ratify the high seas treaty if it comes to fruition, say Karan. But no one is holding their breath for that. Kalas says the goal is that the treaty, once completed, would be widely supported, although it remains to be seen how many countries will sign on. "If only 40 countries ratify it, that wouldn't make it as strong of an agreement as if all the United Nation's 193 nations ratified the agreement," she said.</p><p>But there's a fine line between having an agreement that's universally supported and one that establishes concrete conservation actions and protections.</p><p>"Our concern is that in trying to get everyone in the tent as it were, we're going to wind up with a status-quo agreement," said Karan. "As much as we want a treaty, we want one that will make concrete change on the water."</p><p>And it's worth remembering, we're talking about a lot of water. When the next session convenes, she said, "states will decide the ocean's fate."</p>
The population of a marine parasite that sometimes worms its way into sushi has increased by 283 times in the last nearly 40 years, a University of Washington (UW)-led study has found.
By David Shiffman
Let's go fishin'! After all, a lone angler fishing from a dock or a few friends going out to sea can't have all that much of an effect on fish populations … right?
The marina in Valencia, Spain. Mark Chinnick (CC BY 2.0)
Cod in a commercial net. Derek Keats (CC BY 2.0)
Fishing off the coast of Brazil, with dolphins swimming nearby. Felipe Vaduga (CC BY 2.0)
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service<p>"The shipment violated the Lacey Act and included CITES listed species," Gavin Shire, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Chief of Public Affairs, told <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/04/us/shark-fins-seized-trnd/index.html" target="_blank">CNN</a>. "We are limited to what we can say about this as it is an ongoing case."</p> <p>While it is illegal in the U.S. to cut off a fin from a live shark and discard the rest of the animal, it is not illegal to traffic or trade shark fins in the U.S. </p> <p>"The recent seizure of more than 1,000 pounds of shark fins in Miami from potentially protected species demonstrates why we need a federal shark fin ban," said Ariana Spawn, an ocean advocate at the nonprofit advocacy group Oceana, as <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/04/us/shark-fins-seized-trnd/index.html" target="_blank">CNN reported</a>. She urged the Senate to pass the <a href="https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/senate-bill/877" target="_blank">Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act</a> (S.877), which would ban the trade of fins nationwide.</p>
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By Moira McCarthy
- Researchers say eating at restaurants is generally bad for our overall health.
- They note that 50 percent of full-service restaurant meals and 70 percent of fast-food meals are of poor dietary quality.
- Experts say you can avoid unhealthy eating habits at restaurants by checking the menu beforehand and saving a portion of your meal for lunch the next day.
There was a time not so long ago when dining out was a rare treat and most of our meals were prepared at home.
Making Quality Food Available<p>The study results come as no surprise to food entrepreneur <a href="https://www.specialtyfood.com/news/article/sfa-news-live-innovator-series-shannon-allen-grown/" target="_blank">Shannon Allen</a> and her husband, former NBA star <a href="https://www.basketball-reference.com/players/a/allenra02.html" target="_blank">Ray Allen</a>.</p><p>Eight years ago, while driving along a suburban Boston highway and realizing her young son with type 1 diabetes needed to eat quickly, Shannon Allen was faced with the realization that not one of the many restaurants she passed — fast food or otherwise — came close to offering the kind of meals she chooses to feed her children.</p><p>In reaction, Allen took action. She formed <a href="https://www.grown.org/our-story/" target="_blank">Grown</a>, a group of organically certified restaurants.</p><p>Her goal is to place a healthy spot to eat quickly close enough for anyone to access.</p><p>So far, Grown has four locations, including one in the Florida stadium that will host <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/super-bowl" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Super Bowl</a> 2020.</p><p>Allen agrees personal choice plays a role in ordering, but she places the responsibility squarely on the restaurants themselves.</p><p>"I think that for the most part, the food industry is broken," Allen told Healthline. "For some families, it's cost prohibitive to eat real food. Delicious, fresh, nutrient dense, organic ingredients are about three times more expensive than conventional grown ingredients, and it only costs pennies to eat traditional fast food, like burgers, tacos, and fries."</p><p>Allen says those choices aren't necessarily a bad thing if they're an occasional meal. However, if that's the only kind of food a person can afford, it will affect their health over time.</p><p>"If we lead with what's right, what is real, and what is obvious — that real food made with fresh, organic ingredients should be the right of every family," she said, "now we are really doing something to change busy people's lives for the better."</p>
Getting the Government to Act<p>Mozaffarian agrees that restaurants must take action, but he adds this problem should be attacked with a societal and governmental effort as well.</p><p>He says federal, state, and local governments should reward restaurants that are doing the right thing.</p><p>Those officials, for example, can link the <a href="https://www.eda.gov/opportunity-zones/" target="_blank">Opportunity Zones</a> legislation to healthier menu items, or provide tax or regulatory policy that encourages and lowers the cost of healthier options and eating.</p><p>He adds that more messaging is needed to consumers about how critical their food choices are for health and healthcare costs.</p><p>"Many chefs are showing that healthier options can taste even better than unhealthy ones. We need more of this innovation," Mozaffarian said.</p>
What You Can Do<p>So, what's a busy diner to do?</p><p><a href="https://susanweinernutrition.com/" target="_blank">Susan Weiner</a>, MS, RDN, CDE, FAADE, owner of Susan Weiner Nutrition, suggests diners take time to think ahead, study menus, and not fall prey to special "value deals."</p><p>"If you're with other people, it's always best to order first," she told Healthline. "You are less likely to be peer influenced."</p><p>She also suggests the following:</p><ul><li>Review the menu before you go to the restaurant so you have a heads-up on the offerings. You can also call in advance to see if food can be prepared in a way that's satisfactory to you.</li><li>Try to avoid the "upsell" meal deals. Stick to the basics.</li><li>Your server is your friend. Be kind, and ask for recommendations that would fit your needs.</li><li>Put some away for lunch tomorrow. Think about how much you would eat at home. Chances are restaurant portions are much larger. Or, share a meal.</li></ul><p>Mozaffarian would also like to see the presidential candidates not just take this up as a talking point, but take action on the campaign trail.</p><p>"With the 2020 elections in full swing, everyone is talking about healthcare and healthcare costs, but no one is addressing a leading driver: poor food," he said.</p><p>"In fact, it sometimes seems like the candidates are trying to outdo each other on the campaign trail by eating the worst food possible. We will never get healthcare costs under control until we fix our food system. This is a leading opportunity for innovation and better health," Mozaffarian said.</p>
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By Tara Lohan
Part of Joellen Russell's job is to help illuminate the deep darkness — to shine a light on what's happening beneath the surface of the ocean. And it's one of the most important jobs in the world right now.
1. Yes, It’s Definitely Getting Warmer<p>There's no doubt among scientists that the ocean is heating and we're driving it.</p><p>The latest confirmation is the <a href="https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/s00376-020-9283-7.pdf" target="_blank">study by Cheng and colleagues, published this month</a> in Advances in Atmospheric Sciences, which bluntly stated, "Ocean heating is irrefutable and a key measure of the Earth's energy imbalance."</p><p>The study found ocean waters in 2019 were the warmest in recorded history. And that follows a pattern: The past decade has also seen the warmest 10 years of ocean temperatures, and the last five years have been the five warmest on record.</p><p>"Every year the ocean waters get warmer, and the reason is because of the heat-trapping gases that humans have emitted into the atmosphere," says <a href="https://www.stthomas.edu/engineering/faculty/john-p-abraham.html" target="_blank">John Abraham</a>, one of the study's coauthors and a professor in mechanical engineering at the University of St. Thomas. "It's concerning for sure."</p>
2. The Southern Ocean Has Been Hit Worst<p>Much of this warming occurs between the surface and a depth of 6,500 feet. It's happening pretty consistently across the globe, but some areas have experienced higher rates of warming. One of those is the Southern Ocean, which has acted as a giant sink, absorbing 43 percent of our oceanic CO2 emissions and 75 percent of the heat, <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41561-019-0516-2" target="_blank">scientists have concluded</a>.</p><p>That's because the ocean basin functions like an air conditioner for the planet, says Russell. Strong winds pull up cold water from deep below, and then the cold surface water takes up some heat from the air. When the winds slow, the water sinks, more cold water rises, and the process repeats.</p><p>"The sinking water isn't warm, per se, just a bit warmer than it was when the wind pulled it up," she says. "In this way the Southern Ocean can sequester a lot of heat well below the surface."</p><p>For that reason what happens in the Southern Ocean is globally important. And it makes new findings all the more concerning.</p><p>Normal upwelling of waters from deep in the Southern Ocean has traditionally brought nutrients to the surface, where they then get moved by the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, the world's strongest ocean current, to feed <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/marine-life">marine life</a> in other areas. But <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41561-019-0502-8" target="_blank">new research</a> from Russell and colleagues found that this process will be disrupted as warm waters cause the Southern Ocean's ice sheets to melt even faster. This will change the historical upwelling and could trap nutrients instead of pushing them out.</p><p>That, she says, will "begin to starve the global ocean of nutrients."</p>
3. A Lot of Changes Are Happening<p>As bad as that sounds…there's a lot more.</p><p>One of the most obvious results of ocean warming is higher sea levels. That's caused in part because water expands as it warms.</p><p>But there's also the effect on sea ice. The warmer the water gets, the more ice melts — as is happening in Antarctica. Not surprisingly <a href="https://climate.nasa.gov/news/2680/new-study-finds-sea-level-rise-accelerating/" target="_blank">rates of global sea-level rise are accelerating</a>. This means more property damage, storm surges, and waves lapping at the heels of our coastal communities.</p><p>Warmer waters also mean more supercharged storms. An increase in heat drives up evaporation and adds extra moisture to the atmosphere, causing heavy rains, more flooding and more extreme weather events.</p><img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjYzNjk2Mi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NjkzMjM5OH0.bhKjRgMbhxksaqF3cbAaR47hB1qOwEhfu57i-5Zq4vM/img.jpg?width=980" id="cfea2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="03961faaf4043365957badd47c4abfd2" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
The aftermath of Cyclone Idai, one of the deadliest storms in history, in Mozambique, March 2019. Denis Onyodi / IFRC / DRK / Climate Centre / CC BY-NC 2.0
4. Marine Heat Waves Are Getting Worse<p>While temperatures are rising across the world's oceans, some areas are also seeing dangerous short-term spikes known as <a href="http://www.marineheatwaves.org/all-about-mhws.html" target="_blank">marine heatwaves</a>.</p><p>Scientists anticipate that these heatwaves, which can be fatal to a <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/world/climate-environment/climate-change-tasmania/" target="_blank">long list of sea creatures</a>, will continue to get more severe and more frequent as the ocean warms. By the end of the century, conditions in some areas may be akin to a permanent heatwave.</p><p>That's likely to be bad news for everything from seaweed to birds to mammals, and it could result in fundamental changes for food webs and the animals and coastal economies that depend on those resources.</p><p>"Collectively, and over time, an increase in the exposure of marine ecosystems to extreme temperatures may lead to irreversible loss of species or foundation habitats, such as seagrass, coral reefs and kelp forests," a <a href="https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmars.2019.00734/full?utm_source=ad&utm_medium=tw&utm_campaign=ba_sci_fmars" target="_blank">December 2019 study</a> in<em> Frontiers in Marine Science</em> found.</p><p>And these changes likely aren't far off. These marine heatwaves "will emerge as forceful agents of disturbance to marine ecosystems in the near-future," the researchers wrote.</p><p>We're already seeing what that would look like.</p><p>Marine heatwaves off Australia have spurred oyster die-offs and losses to the abalone fishery, and one event in 2016 caught the world's attention when it caused <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-04660-w" target="_blank">severe bleaching of the biodiverse Great Barrier Reef</a>, triggering mass coral deaths.</p><img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjYzNjk2Ny9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwODU4NTI3OH0.nn6BGq9q8yOZAxYZKGnYtrmWETVdBEoeOZ_thH1pEm0/img.jpg?width=980" id="62e5a" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="4df8b69188d6484a2932664481c2b6f5" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
An aerial view of widespread coral bleaching in the northern Great Barrier Reef, 2016. Terry Hughes / ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies / CC BY-ND 2.0
5. What We Don’t Know<p>Scientists have enough information now to tell us that we need to quickly change course. But there's still a lot to learn about how warming temperatures will affect myriad species in the sea, not to mention weather patterns and coastal economies.</p><p>One current line of research is to better understand how ocean warming affects weather.</p><p>"We know that a warmer ocean means more water evaporates into the atmosphere," says Abraham. "Consequently, it makes the weather more severe because humidity drives storms. We would like to quantify this. So how much worse is weather now and how bad will it be?"</p><p>Some of that information will come from existing systems.</p>
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Richard Hamilton Smith / Corbis NX / Getty Images
By Susan Cosier
Come February in Wisconsin, almost everything will be covered in ice and snow. In little shanties on frozen Lake Winnebago, a 30-by-13-mile lake in the eastern part of the state, fishers will keep watch over rectangular holes cut into the ice with a chainsaw. When they spot a fin passing below, they'll jab their spears down deep. The lucky ones will earn themselves a lake sturgeon, a species that has prowled the earth's waters for more than 150 million years.