Monthly Archives: November 2016

Ocean acidification study offers warnings for marine life, habitats

Sea grass beds, like these off the coast of British Columbia, Canada, might buffer the impacts of ocean acidification.Christopher Harley,University of British Columbia

Acidification of the world’s oceans could drive a cascading loss of biodiversity in some marine habitats, according to research published Nov. 21 in Nature Climate Change.

The work by biodiversity researchers from the University of British Columbia, the University of Washington and colleagues in the U.S., Europe, Australia, Japan and China, combines dozens of existing studies to paint a more nuanced picture of the impact of ocean acidification.

While most research in the field focuses on the impact of ocean acidification on individual species, the new work predicts how acidification will affect the living habitats such as corals, seagrasses and kelp forests that form the homes of other ocean species.

“Not too surprisingly, species diversity in calcium carbonate-based habitats like coral reefs and mussel beds were projected to decline with increased ocean acidification,” said lead author Jennifer Sunday, a UBC zoologist and biodiversity researcher. Species that use calcium carbonate to build their shells and skeletons, like mussels and corals, are expected to be particularly vulnerable to acidification.

“The more complex responses are those of seagrass beds that are vital to many fisheries species. These showed the potential to increase the number of species they can support, but the real-world evidence so far shows that they’re not reaching this potential. This highlights a need to focus not only on individual species, but on how the supportive habitat that sets nature’s stage responds and interacts to climate change.”

. . .The researchers focused their study on the impact of ocean acidification on coral reefs, mussel beds, kelp forests and seagrass meadows that form the homes of thousands of marine species. They used observations of altered habitats around the world to project how changes in these habitats brought on by ocean acidification will impact the number of species that each habitat can support. . .


Coral ecosystems, like these pictured off the coast of Mexico, will be hit hard as the oceans become more acidic.Christopher Harley, University of British Columbia


Ocean Acidification study offers warnings for marine life, habitats

November 21, 2016

See UBC news release.


Global marine fisheries catches have been declining, on average, by 1.2 million metric tons every year since 1996 and FAO knew very little about this.

Fortunately, the Global Atlas of Marine Fisheries has just been released and it explains, in detail and country-by-country, the reasons behind this unprecedented phenomenon, its consequences when it comes to food security and the steps that can be taken to ease the dire situation.

The 520-page book, published by Island Press, is the product of a 10-year research effort led by two renowned scientists from the Sea Around Us project at the University of British Columbia’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries: Dr. Daniel Pauly and Dr. Dirk Zeller, who were backed by close to 400 researchers from 273 countries.

Why wasn’t this issue reported before? Because for the past 50 years, member countries have been giving FAO misleading information regarding their fishery data. Thus, while the UN agency officially divulged a peak in global catches of 86 million metric tons by 1996, the real figure the UBC experts unearthed was of 130 million metric tons. Following that spike, numbers have been in sharp decline.

Countries’ inaccurate information is the result of unaccounted catches, such as those originating from recreational, artisanal, and illegal fishing, as well as from discarded bycatch.

One of the three chapters on Canada included in the Atlas reveals that Arctic catches, for example, are entirely missing from official reports. “These are almost exclusively subsistence for the local people,” Zeller explains. “So, what Canada is telling the world community is that no one is eating fish up there in the Arctic, which is simply wrong.”

The Atlas also shows the impact of discards in Canada’s fisheries data. “The northwest Atlantic was the area with the largest discards worldwide in the 1960s and 1970s,” Zeller says. The reasons for discarding were mostly getting ‘non-marketable animals’ and high grading, a ‘fish the best and leave the rest,’ -kind of practice.

Catches everywhere have been bountiful up until now, the Global Atlas of Marine Fisheries states. But the decline in volumes reveals that fish stocks are in danger. And climate change is only making things worse.




November 3, 2016


World’s largest marine park created in Ross Sea in Antarctica

EU and 24 countries sign long-awaited agreement to protect 1.1m sq km of water in Southern Ocean, ensuring that fewer younger fish will be caught.

A landmark international agreement to create the world’s largest marine park in the Southern Ocean has been brokered in Australia, after five years of compromises and failed negotiations.

More than 1.5m sq km of the Ross Sea around Antarctica will be protected under the deal brokered between 24 countries and the European Union. It means 1.1m sq km of it – an area about the size of France and Spain combined – will be set aside as a no-take “general protection zone”, where no fishing will be allowed.

. . . It is the first marine park created in international waters and will set a precedent for further moves to help the world achieve the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s recommendation that 30% of the world’s oceans be protected.

The Antarctic protections had been urgently sought because of the importance of the Southern Ocean to the world’s natural resources. For example, scientists have estimated that the Southern Ocean produces about three-quarters of the nutrients that sustain life in the rest of the world’s oceans. The region is also home to most of the world’s penguins and whales.

The Ross Sea is a deep bay in the Southern Ocean that many scientists consider to be the last intact marine ecosystem on Earth – a living laboratory ideally suited for investigating life in the Antarctic and how climate change is affecting the planet.

. . . The protections will not decrease the total amount of fish that are allowed to be caught in the Ross Sea, but it will move the industry away from the most crucial habitats close to the continent itself.

Russia has an industry catching antarctic toothfish there and the changes will push the fleet into waters where they will catch fewer immature fish, and where they won’t compete with as many orcas, who also rely on toothfish for food.

The agreement also establishes a large 322,000 sq km “krill research zone” that will allow for research catching of krill, but prohibit toothfish catching. Additionally, a 110,000 sq km “special research zone” will be established on the outside of the no-take zone, allowing catching of krill and toothfish only for research purposes.

. . . But the expiry of the protections in 35 years was a significant compromise. It came after five years of failed negotiations, with opposition from China and Russia which have fishing industries in the region.


World’s largest marine park created in Ross Sea in Antartctica in landmark deal

By Michael Slezak

28 October 2016