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This page includes news articles of international and national interest. Seagrass-Watch HQ does not guarantee, and accepts no legal liability whatsoever arising from or connected to, the accuracy, reliability, currency or completeness of any news material contained on this page or on any linked site. The material on this page may include the views or recommendations of third parties, which do not necessarily reflect the views of the program nor it's supporters, or indicate commitment to a particular course of action

 

 

 

 

 

World's oceans in 2017 were the hottest on record 'by far' as a result of increased greenhouse gases

31 January 2018, Daily Mail (UK)

 

Green turtle heading back to the sea after nesting on Aldabra. Photo Credit: Seychelles Islands Foundation

lThe world's oceans in 2017 were the hottest on record 'by far', a new study has found.

The research shows that Earth's oceans have gradually become hotter over the past 60 years as a result of man-made global warming, scientists said.

The annual electricity generation level for the entirety of China was 699 times smaller than the heat increase in Earth's oceans over the past year.

If allowed to continue, ocean warming will lead to rising sea levels, stronger storms, and unstable marine habitats susceptible to widespread disease.

Effects of the warming seen today include coral bleaching and melting sea ice, the scientists warned.

The research involved an updated analysis of the of the top 6,000 feet (1.800m) of the world's seas undertaken by experts at Beijing-based institutions the Institute of Atmospheric Physics (IAP) and the Chinese Academy of Science (CAS).

'The long-term warming trend driven by human activities continued unabated,' the researchers, led by the IAP's Dr Lijing Cheng, wrote in their paper.

'The high ocean temperatures in recent years have occurred as greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere have also risen.'

While the study found that the world's ocean temperatures have risen as a whole since the 1950s, the Atlantic and Antarctic Oceans experienced the most warming.

Researchers looked at sea temperature data collected by a number of research institutions since the 1950s.

They discovered that during the 1990s, the heating effect of global warming began to accelerate.

Ocean temperatures in 2017 beat those of the previous hottest year on record, 2015.

The oceans in the upper 2,000 metres (6561.7 feet) were 1.51 x 10^22 Joules (unit of energy) warmer than the second warmest year of 2015, and 19.19×10^22 Joules above the 1981-2010 climatalogical reference period.

For comparison, total electricity generation in China in 2016 was 0.00216 × 10^22 Joules - 699 times smaller than the increase in ocean heat in 2017.

Accord to the NOAA, between 1901 through to 2015, sea temperature rose at an average rate of 0.13°F (0.07) per decade.

And the monthly global land and ocean temperatures at the start of 2017 were very warm, wit the first four months each ranking as the second warmest ever for their respective months.

The global land and ocean temperature for the month of March 2017 was 1.03°C (1.9°F) above the 20th century average - the first time the monthly temperature departure from average surpasses 1.0°C (1.8°F).

The yearly global land and ocean temperature has increased at an average rate of 0.07°C (0.13°F) per decade since 1880, however the average rate of increase has been twice as great since 1980.

The researchers said that man-made global warming triggered by greenhouse gases is responsible for our heating waters.

Gases like carbon dioxide and methane trap heat from the sun closer to Earth's surface, heating up our atmosphere and oceans.

Owing to its 'large heat capacity, the ocean accumulates the warming derived from human activities; indeed, more than 90 percent of Earth's residual heat related to global warming is absorbed by the ocean,' according to the researchers.

'As such, the global ocean heat content record robustly represents the signature of global warming.'

The consequences of this warming include coral bleaching, which occurs when corals stressed by heat or pollution expel the symbiotic algae they need to survive.

Experts said that Earth's melting sea ice - whose coverage and thickness has rapidly decreased since global records began in 1979 - is also the result of our planet's warming oceans.

More information:Click Here



 

Can Seagrass Save Shellfish From Climate Change?

30 January 2018, WPSU (USA)

The impacts of climate change aren't a far-off possibility for the Pacific shellfish industry. Acidifying seawater is already causing problems for oyster farms along the West Coast and it's only expected to get worse.

That has one Bay Area oyster farm looking for ways to adapt. It's teaming up scientists who are studying how the local ecosystem could lend a helping hand.

"We need help," says Terry Sawyer of Hog Island Oyster Company. "That 'canary in a coalmine' analogy drives me crazy, but that's what we are."

Sawyer's natural habitat is on the mudflats of Tomales Bay, about 50 miles north of San Francisco, where his oyster operation is located. But a few years ago, he started going to climate change conferences, sitting next to scientists and policymakers.

"Carbon chemistry is incredibly sophisticated, complicated science," he says. "I am definitely out of my element. Out of my comfort zone. I'd rather be in shorts and no shoes."

To him, it was a necessity. Like a lot of oyster farmers, he buys baby oysters from hatcheries in Oregon and Washington. But starting a decade ago, the hatcheries began having mysterious die-offs.

"The orders that we were getting – if we were getting them at all, they wouldn't necessarily happen at the time or the size that we could take them," he says.

Scientists eventually identified the main culprit: acidifying seawater.

At least a quarter of the carbon humans put into the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels is soaked up by the ocean. It acts like a carbon sponge, but adding carbon to seawater makes it more acidic. Since the start of the Industrial Revolution, the oceans have become about 30 percent more acidic.

It's harmful for animals that build shells, like oysters, and spells big trouble for the Pacific shellfish industry, worth more than $100 million.

"You don't want to curl up in a fetal position," says Sawyer. "You do want to say we've got to move on this and we need help."

Sawyer found some help by opening up his oyster farm to a team of scientists.

The water's acidity is monitored with real-time equipment, part of a network run by UC Davis's Bodega Marine Lab.

"That was a significant move: knowing what's going to day-to-day, minute-by-minute," he says. "And it's also been proving the point. We have numbers you can't argue with."

Hog Island is also opening its own oyster hatchery in Humboldt Bay to improve the reliability of the supply chain.

The oyster farm is also assisting with cutting-edge scientific research, focused on how oysters could get a boost from native plants in Tomales Bay.

On a sunny morning, a team of scientists is scuba-diving in a shallow part of the bay, surrounded by thick, green seagrass, waving in the current.

"When you're down in it, it really feels like you're in a forest of seagrass," says Kristy Kroeker, professor of marine biology at UC Santa Cruz. "It's quite long."

This seagrass is a glimmer of hope for oyster farmers. Plants, whether it's a forest or lawn, take up carbon dioxide and use it for photosynthesis.

"The plants under the water are doing the exact same thing," Kroeker says.

The seagrass pulls the carbon out of the water, which makes it slightly less acidic.

"Essentially, they're creating this little bubble of seawater around them that's more friendly for animals that might be threatened by ocean acidification," she says.

Kroeker is trying to find out if the seagrasses could act as a buffer, protecting the oysters nearby.

She plants mesh bags of baby oysters in the seagrass bed, which she'll be watching in the months to come. So far, the results look promising, but not necessarily the whole answer.

Seagrass can reduce acidification around it, but potentially only in certain locations or at certain times of year. More research will be needed, Kroeker says, but against a global problem, local approaches have a lot of potential.

"Can we use parts of nature that we already know are important – seagrasses – to actually benefit people and protect them from some of these impacts?" she says.

The approach is being studied around the world in different ecosystems, including near coral reefs, and using bigger marine plants, like kelp.

Eventually, it'll be up to oyster farmers like Terry Sawyer to make the research work on the ground – or, in the water.

"From an aquaculture point of view, you bet I'm hopeful," Sawyer says. "Maybe I'm being idealistic here. But we're learning so much. We're just at the tip of the iceberg on that."

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Trainee forest range officers from Assam, West Bengal and Maharashtra participate in turtle walk in TN

29 January 2018, Times of India (India)

Trainee forest range officers from the states of Assam, West Bengal and Maharashtra participated in a turtle walk with wildlife officials from the Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park in Ramanathapruam district of Tamil Nadu in the early hours of Monday.

The 32 trainee officers, 32 of them from these states, training at Kundal Academy in Maharashtra, have come down to the Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park for a three- days training.

In the last two days, the trainee officers were briefed on dugong conservation as dugong is flagship marine species of GoMMNP. On the second day, they were taken to Kurusadai Islet near Mandapam where they were briefed upon island conservation, especially coral reef protection. They have also been taught how to book wildlife offenders especially in coastal environment.

On the third day, they were taken out on a turtle walk to have a hand-on-experience of turtle conservation. The walk started around 3.30am and lasted till 6am, covering Mukuntharayarchathiram to Arichalmunai seashore in Dhanushkodi, and the visiting officers were accompanied by turtle watchers, deployed from local fishing community by forest department during the turtle breeding season, as well as the wildlife officials from GoMMNP headed by forest range officer S Sathish.

During the turtle walk, the officers spotted three turtle nests recovering 374 turtle eggs from them. The wildlife officials at GoMMNP so far have recovered 2,435 turtle eggs from 20 nests depositing them at turtle hatchery in Mukuntharayarchathiram.

"Some of the range officers especially from Maharashtra and West Bengal may get posted along the coastal stretches after training and this training will be useful to them in conserving turtles," stated Sathish.

The turtle walk exercise was carried out as per the instructions of wildlife warden, GoMMNP, T K Ashok Kumar. Course director of Kundal Academy, Neetha, was present during Turtle Walk.

More information: Click Here


 

Florida Manatee Count Hits Record High On East Coast

27 January 2018, Brevard Times (USA)

 

Manatees on Florida's East Coast hit a new record high of 3,731, topping last year's record high of 3,488, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

FWC reported a preliminary count of 6,131 manatees in Florida during the 2018 statewide aerial survey which is conducted annually in late January.

A team of 15 observers from 10 organizations counted 3,731 manatees on Florida’s east coast and 2,400 manatees on the west coast of the state.

This year’s statewide count of 6,131 manatees is down from last year's record count of 6,620. However, it is still the third-highest count since record-keeping began in 1991.

Florida's west coast saw a drop from 3,132 in 2017 to 2,400 in 2018, the lowest count since 2010. But the 2018 west coast count remains the seventh-highest on record.

Florida's manatee count has exceeded 6,000 manatees for the last four years, which is more than double the count 15 years ago.

As a result of the manatee comeback, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed the manatee from the Endangered Species List because studies showed that it is unlikely the manatee population will fall below 4,000 for the next 100 years.

Is The Manatee Boom Hurting The Indian River Lagoon?

Many Brevard County waterfront property owners, boaters, and anglers blame the increased manatee population for the Indian River Lagoon's plight.

Citizens for Florida's Waterways (CFW) contends that the manatee boom is putting too much pressure on the seagrass and nutrient load in the Indian River Lagoon.

That's because an 800 to 1,200-pound adult sea cow can eat up 10% to 15% of its body weight daily in aquatic vegetation which mostly consists of seagrass.

According to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Manatee Recovery Plan, manatees sometimes graze on seagrass which leaves the possibility for regrowth - but manatees also "root" seagrass - meaning the entire plant is pulled and the underwater sediment is disturbed.

Based on those consumption rates and grazing method, CFW calculated that an average manatee can consume and/or destroy around 3 acres of seagrass a year, depending on the density of the seagrass per acre.

In 2014, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection addressed the effect of the increased manatee population on the nutrient load in the Indian River Lagoon:

"At the time the seagrass TMDLs were developed [in 2009], manatees were not considered as major nutrient contributors to the Indian River Lagoon because not all the data needed to quantify the manatee nutrient contribution were available. It is worth noting that manatees have been part of the Indian River Lagoon ecosystem for a long time," FDEP stated.

"Based on the Department’s Nutrient and Dissolved Oxygen TMDLs for the Indian River Lagoon and Banana River Lagoon report (FDEP, 2009), the long-term annual average TN [Total Nitrogen] and TP [Total Phosphorous] loads entering the Indian River Lagoon system are about 1511 tons and 216 tons, respectively. The 25 to 109 tons of TN and 2 to 7 tons of TP contributed by manatees only account for about 1.7% to 6.7% of TN loads and 0.7% to 3.0% of TP loads entering the Indian River Lagoon system."

"We have at least got [FDEP's] attention to the subject," CFW President Bob Atkins said of FDEP's analysis of the manatee's nutrient impact on the Indian River Lagoon. "My conclusion is that seagrass loss is worse [from manatee consumption] than I have calculated and free nutrients are not as bad."

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Dredging drama?

25 January 2018, Coastal Leader (South Australia)

SEAGRASS MANIA: Trent Roshall's aerial view of the mouth of the river shoswcases just how much seagrass is in need of removal.

The Kingston District Council will spend an additional $105,000 on completing this season’s dredging.

This summer there has been a significant build up of sea grass, creating an increased need for more dredging than past years.

“What usually takes us around a week has taken us a fair few weeks,” CEO Andrew MacDonald said.

The proposal to take $105,000 out of the Capital Works Program savings was presented at the council meeting on Friday, with the motion unanimously passed.

The additional $105,000 will allow for the significant amount of sea grass to be removed from the Kingston coastline, providing a safer experience for the public.

“The build-up of sand over the winter has pushed the sea grass around the mouth of the river, and right down,” Mr MacDonald said.

“So our task is to remove it as safely as possible, whilst maintaining the standard of water that is needed.”

As well as the grant, the Kingston District Council had to apply for a dredging licence from the Environmental Protection Authority.

“We had to build a management plan, and we must check the standard of the water regularly,” Mr MacDonald said.

Seagrass can cause issues if levels are not maintained properly.

While the dredging is being conducted, the water can be shaken up, and oxygen levels can reach dangerously low levels.

The Kingston District Council went through a process wherein it tested the water before dredging started, and will continue to test throughout the stages of dredging.

“This [dredging] can cause issues with the fish, and other wildlife within the water,” explained Mr MacDonald.

“So we take it very seriously.”

Dredging has been paused until further notice, as the water levels are currently at a dangerously low level.

“We will commence when the water levels are more stable,” Mr MacDonald said.

“So we cannot say when we will commence.”

More information: Click Here


 

 

Shark Charities See Surge in Donations 'Because Trump'

24 January 2018, EcoWatch

President Trump might have an affinity for elephants, but not so much for another threatened and iconic species: sharks. As adult film actress/Trump's alleged ex-mistress Stormy Daniels claimed in a recent interview with In Touch Weekly, the Donald is "terrified" of the big predators, never donates to shark charities and hopes that "all the sharks die."

But in the few days since the bizarre anti-shark opinions came to light, shark conservation charities have seen a surge in donations specifically mentioning Trump.

"We have been receiving donations in Trump's name since the story was published," said Cynthia Wilgren, chief executive officer and co-founder of Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, told MarketWatch.

The Verge reported that one donation to Sea Shepherd Conservation Society came with the comment "Because Trump."

Another donor said, "Contribution to save the Sharks after reading the article 'Trump hopes sharks die,'" according to Zorianna Kit, media director for Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

Tabloid fodder aside, Trump really does seem to dislike sharks, as seen in these tweets from 2013 and 2014. He also controversially ate shark fin soup in Vietnam during his trip to Asia in November.

But sharks are some of the ocean's most misunderstood creatures. The apex predators maintain the species below them in the food chain and serve as an indicator for ocean health. Oceana explained, "as predators, they shift their prey's spatial habitat, which alters the feeding strategy and diets of other species. Through the spatial controls and abundance, sharks indirectly maintain the seagrass and corals reef habitats. The loss of sharks has led to the decline in coral reefs, seagrass beds and the loss of commercial fisheries."

Unfortunately, 25 percent of shark species are listed as endangered, threatened or near threatened by extinction due to threats that include bycatch and the brutal practice of shark finning. Some 75 million sharks a year are killed, as Captain Paul Watson, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society founder, told MarketWatch.

Let's not forget that since taking over the White House, Trump and his administration's policies could bring much harm to our oceans and its creatures. From the administration's proposal to massively expand new offshore oil drilling off U.S. coastlines, to possibly changing the boundaries of two marine monuments in the Pacific Ocean: Pacific Remote Islands and Rose Atoll.

Conservationists said Trump's comments about sharks were "ignorant," but Watson said, "Anything that focuses attention on the plight of sharks worldwide is valuable, so I guess in that way the president did good service."

More information: Click Here



 

Could 'assisted evolution' save the Great Barrier Reef?

23 January 2017, ABC (Australia)

It's a race against time to save the Great Barrier Reef.

Rising temperatures are killing coral at an alarming rate and scientists worry it could die off completely unless something is done quickly.

Yesterday, the Federal Government committed $60 million to the task, a move welcomed by many in the scientific community.

Environmental groups say the grants are a "band aid" solution and won't make a meaningful impact on the reef.

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Two Greeks on Forbes 30 Under 30 Europe list

23 January 2018, Kathimerini (USA)

 

A 24-year-old Greek innovator who devised a way to utilize washed-up seagrass has made it onto this year’s prestigious Forbes list of 30 European entrepreneurs under the age of 30 who are shaking up their respective sectors in 2018.

Stavros Tsompanidis is the founder of PHEE, a company based in the western port city of Patra that manufactures gift boxes and accessories from dead Neptune grass (Posidonia oceanica), hailed by Forbes as being one of the “first to turn this plant into a useful product.”

The 24-year-old, who also recently received the prize for best startup in sustainable development at the Startup Greece Awards, was named in the Technology category of the Forbes list, which comprises a total of 10 areas of expertise, also including entertainment, science, finance, and law and policy.

PHEE was founded by the University of Piraeus financial management graduate, who is CEO and head of marketing, and Nikolaos Athanasopoulos, an engineer from the University of Patra who is the company’s production manager, back in 2015.

Today, PHEE manufactures a series of sustainable and attractive products using phee-board, an innovative cellulose-based material made of seagrass with multiple applications.

Among PHEE’s best-sellers are its cell phone cases, luxury gift boxes and beach tennis paddles, while it recently launched an eyewear line in cooperation with Zylo, another Greek startup that produces wooden frames and is based on the island of Syros.

Thanks to the positive environmental impact of the company’s activity, as it helps utilize thousands of tons of seaweed that washes up on the country’s beaches every year in a sustainable manner, PHEE enjoys the support of the Angelopoulos Foundation, The People’s Trust and BlueGrowth Piraeus.

“This distinction represents a small moral victory for the team, for everything we have accomplished so far, but also gives us a sense of responsibility,” Tsompanidis was quoted by the ANA-MPA news agency as saying in response to the award. “We want to keep trying to make seagrass known globally by promoting the principles of recycling and the reuse of materials that are found in abundance all around us.”

In the law and policy category, 27-year-old Kristina Tremonti was awarded for developing the crowdsourcing platform Edosa Fakelaki (I Paid a Bribe), allowing citizens to report corruption in Greece.

Tremonti, who graduated from Yale with a BA in political science before receiving her master’s at the University of Stockholm, started the initiative after having to bribe a public hospital to get treatment for her grandfather for prostate cancer.

“Feeling powerless in the face of an illegal system so well established, I felt the urgency for change and to give a voice to all those who had felt just as victimized as my grandfather,” Tremonti wrote in an op-ed in the Guardian in 2012 on the occasion of the platform’s launch.

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Marine park controversy continues following five-year review in South Australia

23 January 2018, ABC Online (Australia)

The Nuyts Archipelago Marine Park in the Great Australian Bight is home to the blue groper and Maori wrasse. Photo Credit: The Steve Irwin

It's been five years since 83 marine sanctuary zones were implemented in South Australia, and despite ongoing controversy and a lack of conclusive results, proponents maintain it is a step towards fish sustainability "thousands of kilometres" away.

The SA Marine Parks Five-Year Status Report, released Monday, concluded insufficient time had passed to detect changes in the size of fish, abundance or diversity of biota within the zones — all with the exception of Cape de Coudecic where rock lobsters had increased in size and abundance.

"The marine parks have only been set up for five years and you need a reasonable amount of time, given the long life histories of some of these species, to have passed before you're going to see increases in size, abundance and diversity," Professor Bronwyn Gillanders said.

"It's essentially just establishing baseline information that you can use to assess change."

The zones are contained within 19 marine parks that stretch across SA's coastline.

The report indicated that biodiversity and ecosystem function was being maintained in the sanctuary zones, with some of the most critical including islands off the Eyre Peninsula and the West Coast.

Other notable areas included the Sponge Gardens sanctuary zone off Kangaroo Island, where the report said vulnerable species, such as the blue groper, harlequin fish and blue devil, found refuge.

Professor Gillanders, from the University of Adelaide School of Biological Sciences, said the purpose of marine parks was also to contribute to replenishing stocks outside the zones, including areas that were commercially fished.

"If we can get larger fish in the marine parks, which is what you're aiming to do by not removing fish species, essentially, they can contribute more in terms of reproduction," she said.

"Some of them can travel thousands of kilometres, depending on their life's history, the length of their larval life. Most fish have a pelagic or larval period when they're in the water column [currents] and that's where they're dispersed.

"Some might only have larval periods that are weeks, others might be a couple of months, and that way you get them moving different distances and that's the idea around having sanctuary areas that are connected to one another."

Fishing communities remain 'unconvinced'
SA Abalone Association president Jonas Woolford said opposition remained strong among regional communities and any spill over would only benefit certain species.

He said those fish spawning pelagic larvae in the right area might move out, but not all species were migratory and remained in certain areas.

"Take, for example, abalone. It's very localised in terms of replenishing, so that's not the case," Mr Woolford said.

When the zone plan was announced it prompted fears from local communities that commercial fishing would be negatively affected, along with recreational fishing and the tourism it attracts.

This week's report said the price of local fish had remained stable, commercial fisheries had maintained their catch and value, and recreational fishing participation rates had remained stable.

But Mr Woolford said his industry had been affected "quite a bit" by the zones because it lost access to the offshore islands where a lot of the harvesting took place.

He said at least one abalone family at Elliston on the Eyre Peninsula had to "get work elsewhere" and it subsequently affected the throughput of a fish processing factory at Streaky Bay.

Mr Woolford also said charter fishing boats had been affected by the sanctuary zones and had not been replaced by nature-based tourism.

"They talked about this being the greatest thing for ecotourism, which hasn't happened.

"That transition hasn't happened. It's not your Great Barrier Reef. It's not your Ningaloo Reef. People aren't going to come down here and do that."

He agreed the preliminary report had simply established a baseline, pointing out that it should have been established before the sanctuary zones were implemented.

"South Australia has the best fishing management in the world. I fortunately got to travel around last year on a Nuffield [Australian Farming] Scholarship and I was away four months testing that assumption and concluded that it's true," Mr Woolford said.

"And all the while, this seafood harvesting has been taking place in areas that have now become marine parks, so nothing's changed as such, other than we can't have access to it.

"They've been highly productive areas and well managed because of that."

Wild fisheries catch 'stagnating'
Professor Gillanders also believed Australia's fish stocks to be some of the best managed in the world.

In general volume terms, the wild fisheries catch had "stagnated" worldwide due to increasing aquaculture production, particularly in China.

"Marine parks have been set up around the world for a number of years and often there's quite a lot of opposition," Professor Gillanders said.

"People are worried they'll be shut out from fishing and those sorts of things, but after a number of years, the biggest advocates are often the community because they can see the benefits.

"There's starting to be a number of reviews coming out suggesting that it can take a reasonable number of years to start seeing positive effects.

"I think it's about 10 years, but you only see that if your marine parks are a reasonable size and networked to other marine parks."

A 10-year review of South Australia's sanctuary zones is legislated to occur by 2022.

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Climate impacts marine species: Crabs go from blue to mud

22 January 2018, PerthNow (Australia)

PERTH anglers may soon be hauling in catches of mud crab as the climate continues to warm, according to a team of Murdoch University researchers.

Mud crabs are normally found in warmer waters hundreds of kilometres north of the metropolitan area but in coming decades they could populate greater Perth waterways including the Peel-Harvey, Swan-Canning and Leschenault estuaries, according to Dr Christopher Hallett.

Dr Hallett is lead author on a paper published in the journal Regional Environmental Change and his team’s research examines how climate change will impact marine species including algae, seagrass, crabs and fish in south- west Australian estuaries.
“Warming marine waters will enable some species to move more easily between estuaries and thrive,” he said. “If these waters continue to warm as they are, you’ll have temperatures in winter that allow those species to survive. We’re talking really tropical species, like mud crabs and coral crabs.

“Elevated water temperatures will also extend the growing periods of popular fishing species like the western school prawn and the blue swimmer crab.”

However, he said those benefits would be a silver lining to a raft of potential problems in our streams, rivers and estuaries created by climate change.

“Our estuaries are particularly vulnerable to long-term warming and drying trends because they tend to be shallow, have weak tidal influence and variable seasonal river flows, and, in many cases, are periodically closed by sand bars,” Dr Hallett said.

“Shallow waters tend to be warmer, and these heated estuarine waters will impact species which cannot tolerate high temperatures.

“In the Swan-Canning Estuary for example, seagrass mortalities have been reported due to warmer temperatures. Warmer waters also mean higher salinities, less oxygen and potentially dangerous algal blooms. Most freshwater fish species are unable to tolerate rising salinities.” In 2001, “hypersaline” conditions — meaning saltier than seawater — caused the death of an estimated 1.3 million black bream near Hopetoun. Since the 1970s, flow had dropped by 70 per cent in South-West Australia’s rivers and estuaries.

But Dr Hallett said that estuarine species were adapting. “We have to hope that they can adapt quickly enough to the impacts of climate change,” he said.

The researcher said reducing domestic water use and the use of fertilisers would help protect WA’s estuaries, while oxygenating vulnerable areas and covering spots prone to evaporation are other options that could be explored.

More information: Click Here

 

 

Scientists, volunteers rescue about 1000 cold-stunned sea turtles

19 January 2018, United States Geological Survey (press release)

USGS scientist Margaret Lamont, who has studied sea turtles in Florida since 1995, carries a cold-stunned green sea turtle from the mud flats of St. Joseph Bay. Photo Credit: USGS. (Public domain.)

Florida's second-largest turtle rescue of 21st century is “exhausting, inspiring,” USGS biologist says

On the icy cold shores of Florida’s St. Joseph Bay, a team of volunteers and wildlife experts have rescued an estimated 1,000 cold-stunned sea turtles since January 2 in what is believed to be Florida’s second-largest mass cold-stunning event of the 21st century, according to U.S. Geological Survey research biologist Margaret Lamont.

Lamont has been coordinating the turtle rescues in cooperation with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. About 50 people – about 30 volunteers from the Florida Coastal Conservancy, employees of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Eglin Air Force Base, the Florida FWCC, Gulf World Marine Park, and two more USGS scientists – have taken part in the rescues Jan. 2-7, when about 700 turtles were rescued, and Jan. 17-19, when about 300 more were brought in.

So many cold-stunned turtles have been rescued from the bay’s waters and mud flats that Gulf World, where the turtles are taken to rest and recover, is full and can only take in injured animals, she said. A rented house where Lamont and two scientists conduct their research was full of turtles, inside and outside, on Friday, Jan. 19.

The vast majority of the turtles rescued were threatened green turtles (Chelonia mydas), but the teams also brought in endangered Kemp's ridleys (Lepidochelys kempii), threatened loggerheads (Caretta caretta) and one endangered hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata).

“I’m very happy with how we’ve been able to minimize the mortality to the animals,” said Lamont, who has been studying sea turtles in Florida since 1995. “And I’m very proud of how everyone has come together to get it done. I’m especially proud of the volunteers who are out here in the cold and mud, doing exhausting work for no reward and often no recognition.”

When water temperatures drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius), cold-blooded sea turtles’ metabolisms slow so much that they become unable to swim or even lift their heads above the water to breathe. Without warmth or help, they drown.

Every winter, when strong cold fronts sweep through the Florida Panhandle, volunteers and scientists rescue about 30 to 40 cold-stunned turtles. In 2010, a statewide cold snap led to the rescue of about 1,700 turtles, the largest such rescue in this century, Lamont said. This winter, so many animals have needed rescuing because the back-to-back cold spells have lasted so long. And middle-of-the-night low temperatures have coincided with high tides that washed the turtles into the shallows, Lamont said.

St. Joseph Bay is home to a dense population of overwintering sea turtles, Lamont said. “It’s perfect habitat for them. It has some of the most pristine sea grass beds in Florida where they can feed, cut through by deep channels where they can escape from predators,” she said. In cold weather, turtles normally leave the shallows for deeper water that doesn’t turn cold so quickly – but if the cold lasts long enough, even those depths can fall below 50 degrees. Meanwhile strong winds can blow the sea turtles onto the coastal mudflats where they become stranded.

The rescue teams work by boat, with USGS, USFWS and Florida FWCC scientists using nets to scoop cold-stunned turtles out of the bay, and on foot. On the bay’s Cape San Blas, teams of scientists, wildlife workers and specially-trained and licensed volunteers walk the beaches and marshes, picking up cold-stunned turtles from the shoreline and loading them onto kayaks. When fully loaded with turtles, the kayaks may weigh 400 pounds or more, “and the only access points are two or three miles apart,” Lamont said.

“So people are out there in the cold and mud, with harnesses around their chests, pulling the kayaks across the mud flats,” Lamont said. “It’s exhausting. It’s really tough. And it’s really inspiring to see that people are willing to do it to save these animals.”

The turtles are weighed, measured, and marked with an identifier, and examined to determine whether they need medical care. If they don’t, a few hours in sunlight or another warm space is usually enough to revive them, Lamont said.

Warmer weather was due to return on the night of Friday, January 19, so Lamont expected the rescues to end that evening. Weather permitting, most of the turtles sheltering at Gulf World Marine Park were scheduled to be released back into bay waters on Saturday, January 20, according to the marine park.

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Global campaign on reef awareness to make a splash

20 January 2018, The Straits Times (Singapore)

A feather star on Cyrene Reef in the Southern Islands. Feather stars are marine creatures that can be found near coral reefs or in inter-tidal areas. Photo Credit DAVID LANE

If this year had a colour, it would be blue - blue for the oceans and the creatures that live there.

Welcome to the International Year of the Reef.

It may be only the first month of the year, but things are already in full swing, with programmes being rolled out worldwide to raise awareness about marine habitats, and the need to conserve them.

ingapore, too, has planned a series of public events for the year ahead.

But what marine habitats are there in Singapore, and are they worth visiting? The Straits Times dives into the Republic's underwater universe to find out.

Q What exactly is the International Year of the Reef (IYOR)?

A It is a global campaign that aims to get people thinking about the world's marine habitats.

For the land-bound, underwater habitats, such as coral reefs or seagrass meadows, are often "out of sight, out of mind". As a result, they remain a mystery to many people.

The IYOR hopes to change that.

Governments and conservation groups have joined forces to organise events and programmes that raise awareness of these habitats, and why they need to be conserved.

They include exhibitions, guided walks and workshops.

This year marks the third edition of the global event. The first two were celebrated in 1997 and 2008.

The IYOR is an initiative of the International Coral Reef Initiative - an informal partnership founded in 1994 between nations and marine conservation organisations.

Q What activities have been planned to celebrate the event in Singapore?

A The National Parks Board (NParks) and marine conservation groups have lined up activities that anyone - including those who would rather stay dry - can take part in.

Exhibitions on Singapore's marine biodiversity are being planned for March and April at The Seletar Mall and the Asia Dive Expo at Suntec City respectively. There will also be workshops and talks on seagrass meadows, marine trash and turtle ecology.

People can sign up for patrols to look for turtles or horseshoe crabs on Singapore's beaches, or take part in inter-tidal and coral reef surveys with scientists.

For those who would like to literally get their hands dirty, they can join volunteers in picking up marine rubbish on Singapore's shores. This year would also be a good time to visit the Sisters' Islands Marine Park.

The list of activities planned by NParks and the marine community, along with details about how to take part, can be found at www.nparks.gov.sg/iyor.

The sheer variety of activities available may be surprising to some.

After all, Singapore is a global transshipment hub with busy shipping lanes, and the murky waters surrounding the Republic may beg the question of whether there is anything alive in them.

The answer: A resounding yes!

Q What's so special about Singapore's marine habitats?

A Singapore may wear a concrete crown but it is laced with a necklace of blue.

The Republic is home to many different types of marine habitats - from colourful coral reefs in the south, to mangroves in the east and north-west, to seagrass meadows, rocky shores and sandy beaches on other parts of the coast.

And they sustain a surprising amount of life.

Dolphins and endangered sea turtles have recently been spotted in Singapore's waters. The carcass of a sperm whale was found floating off Jurong Island in 2015 - the first time the species has been found here. Hungry dugongs munching through local seagrass meadows have also left their mark.

But it is not just these charismatic animals that have found a home in Singapore's waters. The Republic's marine habitats are also full of little creatures.

For example, there are more than 250 species of hard coral in Singapore, which make up about a third of hard coral species found worldwide. More than 100 species of reef fish can also be found in coral here.

The 12 seagrass species in Singapore make up more than half the total number recorded in the Indo-Pacific region.

Singapore's waters are also home to 200 species of sponge - including the Neptune's cup sponge, a sea creature shaped like a large goblet.

Once thought to be globally extinct, it was re-discovered in Singapore waters in 2011, and there are now five known Neptune's cup sponges in Singapore.

Q Why do these habitats need to be conserved?

A Simply put, they are in danger.

The International Coral Reef Initiative has declared that coral reefs are now one of the most threatened ecosystems on the planet as a result of both climate change and local human-induced pressures, such as run-off from industries.

Warming seas caused Singapore's corals to suffer the longest bleaching incident on record in 2016.

Corals depend on symbiotic algae, called zooxanthellae, for energy. Bleaching occurs when abnormally high sea temperatures cause coral to expel the algae, turning the coral white and depriving it of a key source of nutrition.

The coral on the fringes of Singapore's southern coast started bleaching in early June 2016 and the sea temperature only returned to normal in December that year.

Singapore experienced two earlier bleaching incidents. In 2010, bleaching started in June and ended in September. The 1998 incident lasted from June to August.

In addition, land reclamation and development has also put Singapore at risk of losing other marine habitats, such as mangroves and seagrass meadows.

A study found that development involving filling the island's coastal waters with sand for almost five decades has killed 1.6 sq km of seagrass - nearly half of the country's total.

And Singapore may have lost almost 90 per cent of its mangroves since the 1950s because of land reclamation in the north and south-west.

Losing these habitats will mean losing more than just the loss of colourful coral, plants and animals.

Marine habitats also provide an array of ecosystem services that benefit humans.

For example, healthy coral reefs draw in marine life and function as a nursery for baby fish. Seagrass meadows and mangroves can store large amounts of carbon. Seagrass meadow soil around the world has accumulated an estimated nine billion tonnes of carbon, according to a New York Times report.

All these habitats also provide a natural escape for city dwellers - as visitors to Singapore's beaches or the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve will attest to.

That tiny Singapore has such a variety of marine habitats and lifeforms despite its busy port and history of intense land reclamation is something to cherish.

As Dr Karenne Tun, director of the coastal and marine branch of NParks' National Biodiversity Centre, said: "Our marine biodiversity is our common natural heritage."

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UN Environment Chief warns this is make-or-break year for Great Barrier Reef

19 January 2018, ABC Online (Australia)

The head of the United Nations Environment Agency warns that this generation could be the one to destroy reefs like the Great Barrier Reef.

This year has been named International Year of the Reef, and the UN Environment Chief Erik Solheim is in Australia to inspect the Great Barrier Reef and urge political leaders to do more to protect it.

He says the world's coral reefs are in a "make or break" situation, and Australia needs to to more to prevent the effects of climate change from destroying the reef.

LISTEN TO AUDIO: Click here

Duration: 3min 27sec
Broadcast: Fri 19 Jan 2018, 12:25pm

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Rising Ocean Temperatures Threaten Carbon-Storing Sea Grass

17 January 2018, Eos

A map shows how, over the course of a 2°C increase in ocean temperature, the suitability of areas to serve as sea grass habitats will likely change. To build the map, scientists began with today’s ocean conditions, then simulated sea grass ecosystem health every tenth of a degree as ocean temperatures rose. Aggregating these simulations through this 2°C temperature change yields a map that shows the trends of sea grasses at any given point. “Recently” refers to a switch in state; for example, ocean around southern South America started off as unsuitable and switched to being suitable for sea grasses over the course of the temperature change. “Increasingly” and “decreasingly” refers to an amplification of the trend; for example, areas in the Caribbean started off suitable and became more so over the 2°C temperature increase. “Consistently” means that the trend continued unchanged; for example, areas in the North Sea were consistently suitable for sea grasses over the 2°C temperature increase. “Improving” and “declining” mean that locations were trending toward being good or bad habitats. For example, areas north of Siberia are “recently improving”: They started off as slightly unfavorable to sea grasses and switched to being favorable as the simulation progressed but are still not prime locations for sea grasses to grow. “Sporadically” means that areas that started one way oscillated between conditions throughout the simulation. For example, regions north of Canada started as unsuitable and oscillated between suitable and unsuitable as the simulated temperatures rose. Credit: Orhun Aydin, ESRI

A new model predicts that as ocean temperatures rise, carbon-storing sea grass may disappear and even go extinct in some ecosystems.

Sea grasses are part of a team of coastal vegetation, including mangroves and salt marshes, that store up to 100 times more carbon than tropical forests at 12 times the speed. Vast prairies of sea grasses stretch for kilometers along the seafloor, storing enough carbon to rival the world’s forests.

If rising ocean temperatures cause these sea grass ecosystems to fail, the loss will only expedite the global warming that did them in, scientists say. So, how exactly will the world’s sea grasses fare in the face of climate change? Thanks to a newly made model, researchers now have answers.

“We can see that the coasts of Australia, Polynesia, and Hudson Bay will lose sea grass if ocean temperatures rise 1.5°C,” said Orhun Aydin, a spatial statistician and product engineer at the Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) in California. “The species Zostera marina only grows in these areas and will become extinct.”
Aydin and his coauthor Kevin Butler, a product engineer at ESRI, developed their model from publicly available data on sea grasses and their environments from the U.S. Marine Cadastre. They identified key environmental conditions involved in sea grass abundance and modeled how these would change with increased temperatures. Then they scaled up their model to encompass the global ocean, using the Ecological Marine Units data set, which provides 3-D maps of ocean ecosystems around the world.

Aydin presented the team’s predictions for the fate of sea grass last month at the American Geophysical Union’s 2017 Fall Meeting in New Orleans, La.

Rising Temperatures and Rising Concerns
The researchers looked at five environmental conditions affected by rising ocean temperatures: salinity, dissolved oxygen, nitrate, phosphate, and silicate concentrations. They compared ocean ecosystems using these parameters and grouped similar environments. They then cranked up the model’s thermostat and predicted how each ecosystem type would likely change with each 0.1°C increase in ocean temperature.

“We found an increase of 1°C was the tipping point,” said Aydin. Changing patterns in sea grass occurrence reveal themselves at 1°C and are exacerbated at 2°C and beyond, he explained.

For example, the Gulf of Mexico, a current sea grass hotbed, will be preserved as a haven for underwater meadows. But some places, such as Australia and Polynesia, will become increasingly unsuitable for sea grass.

Other places will become more suitable for growth, Aydin continued. For instance, if ocean temperatures rise 1.5°C, the frigid Arctic Ocean off the north coast of Siberia could become suitable for sea grass.

However, “Just because sea grass might be able to grow in new places doesn’t mean it will,” said Aydin. “The seeds still need to get there.”

The Future of Sea Grass
The researchers note that the model does not take into account polar ice sheet melting, which would affect ocean salinity and thus environmental hospitableness for sea grass. The model also does not account for how changing levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide will increase the acidity of oceans.

Acidity matters. According to a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, “changes in salinity and temperature and increased sea level, atmospheric CO2 [carbon dioxide], storm activity and ultraviolet irradiance alter sea grass distribution, productivity and community composition.”
Altered salinity and acidity would likely lower the threshold at which rising temperatures change distribution of sea grass, Aydin noted. The researchers’ next steps involve incorporating the compounding conditions into their model.

“Global warming is actively destroying mechanisms for storing carbon dioxide,” said Aydin. “This means increasing temperature will not be a linear process; intuitively, I’d say it will be exponential.”

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Artificial oyster reefs bringing Queensland waterways back to life

13 January 2018, ABC Online (Australia)

Communities have taken the lead in two new projects to bring oysters and, hopefully, fish back to popular Queensland tourist spots.

More than 100 years ago, oysters were so plentiful around south-east Queensland that entire reefs were dredged up to supply oyster saloons interstate.

Kerry Jones from the Kabi Kabi First Nation said oysters had been important for indigenous culture and trade, but much of that was lost when oysters were removed.

"A lot of our shellfish, all our middens were, a lot of 'em were destroyed," he said.

"A lot of it was used for road base or chicken feed."

Bryan Walsh from the Noosa Parks Association said the oysters were completely fished out of the Noosa River.

"When the dredging started, you got to remember refrigeration wasn't around then in the 1860s, 70s and so on, so you could keep oysters alive for a couple of weeks in wet bags."

A few decades later, photos from around 1910 show enormous hauls around Bribie Island and Noosa, with up to 2,000 potato bags a year being taken out of the system.

"Historically this system was absolutely abundant in shellfish, fish anything you care to name, the dugong even came up here to graze on seagrass beds," Mr Walsh said.

But like many large-scale clearing operations, it could not last.

Oysters began to disappear from river systems from the mid 20th Century and after that the fish also began to decline.

Dr Ben Gilby, from the University of the Sunshine Coast, said fish prefer to live around structures like oyster reefs.

"Fish require a whole heap of different habitats throughout their lifecycle." Dr Gilby said.

"A fish might use seagrass during their early lifecycle and then move on into an oyster reef later on."

Communities in Noosa and Bribie Island decided to bring back the oyster reefs to see if they could entice fish back to the holiday spots.

Noosa River oyster revival
A group including the Noosa Parks Association, Noosa Biosphere and researchers decided to install artificial oyster reefs in several locations in the Noosa river.

The reefs were made from large bags of coconut mesh filled with oyster shells.

"We call them our oyster sausages" Dr Gilby said.

The plan was for the sausages to attract baby oysters, or spats, which would then grow and take over the infrastructure, to make a natural reef.

Not long after the installation, the Noosa researchers saw an increased number of fish.

"Within the first week of the reefs being installed, we noticed a 36 per cent increase in the abundance of fish utilising those areas," Dr Gilby said.

Reefs made from potato starch
Further south, at Bribie Island, an even more ambitious reef project has taken place.

Three kinds of oyster reefs have been installed in Pumicestone Passage, including one made from oyster shells collected from local restaurants.

Another reef was made from live oysters, which were grown off pontoons by Bribie Island locals.

The final reef was a plastic system developed in the Netherlands, made from biodegradable potato starch.

One of the Dutch developers, Wouter Lengkeek, said it was the first time the plastic reef had been tested in Australia.

"It's a complex three dimensional structure, that can provide stability, prevents predators from coming in there and eating the mussels or oysters." Mr Lengkeek said.

The potato starch matrix is designed to break down over the next five years as the oysters grow and eventually provide their own reef structure.

Other benefits of oysters
Susie Chapman from the Healthy Land and Water, one of the groups behind the Bribie Island project, said it had been an exciting experiment.

"The oyster reefs are so important historically and environmentally, and so to be bringing them back is such a joy to everyone involved." Ms Chapman said.

"Down the track it would be nice to think that the water quality would also improve, because oysters are filter feeders and filter the water."

It will be a few months before either project can tell whether the baby oysters have taken to their new homes, but researchers said other communities should also look at oyster reefs.

"Already there's been interest sparked from this project and others to expand these types of projects across Queensland." Dr Gilby said.

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2017: Australia's third-hottest year on record

10 January 2018, Spatial Source

 

Australia experienced its third-warmest year on record in 2017, and the first-ever recorded instance of two back-to-back bleaching events on the Great Barrier Reef.

The Bureau of Meteorology released the startling data in the Bureau’s annual climate statement. Speaking at the event, Dr. Karl Braganza, Head of Climate Monitoring at the Bureau of Meteorology, said that 2017’s national mean temperature was 0.95 °C warmer than the 1961–1990 average.

“Despite the lack of an El Niño—which is normally associated with our hottest years—2017 was still characterised by very warm temperatures. Both day and night-time temperatures were warmer than average; particularly maximum temperatures, which were the second-warmest on record,” he said.

“Seven of Australia’s ten warmest years have occurred since 2005 and Australia has experienced just one cooler than average year—2011—in the past decade.”

The warmest months of 2017 were March, July, August, October and December — which all ranked in top ten mean temperatures for those month, meaning they were recorded across the average of day and night time temperatures. The daytime temperatures over the year were the second warmest on record, at 1.27 degrees above the 1961-1990 average. All capital cities recorded warmer than average temperatures, with the exception of Perth, posting close to average data.

2017 was a year of mixed results for rainfall, consistent with the neutral El Niño — La Niña conditions, meaning that Australia’s climate was not being influenced by either an El Niño or La Niña event for the majority of the year, but a minor El Niño effect was present in the final three months.

Dr. Braganza said the rainfall data was reflective of these circumstances, with fairly dry conditions were felt throughout the middle of the year, but above average rainfall recorded in many areas for the final three months of the year, associated with a minor El Niño effect during this period.

Sea surface temperatures for the oceans around Australia were well above average in 2017, however.

Prolonged high temperatures around the Great Barrier Reef over Summer and early Autumn caused mass coral bleaching during March, forming the second consecutive year of bleaching following the 2016 event, and the only recorded instance of two back-to-back bleaching events on record. The Bureau noted that no mass bleaching events were ever recorded until the 1980s, neither in empirical records or testimony from oral histories of traditional owners.

Dr. Braganza said that the signal of climate change was discernible in the 2017 temperature data, and that the year’s records were very close to global trends, which is not always the case –Australia’s unique circumstance as an island continent precipitates a larger range of weather extremes than many other countries.

“For the extreme heat events, Australia is one country where you really can see the signal of global warming on heatwaves,” he said.

“Australia has warmed by around a degree, close to the anomaly or the departure from average. 2017 [‘s data] is actually consistent with how much Australia has warmed. So we saw that across the land surface temperatures and in the ocean surrounding Australia, they have both warmed by a similar amount — and this is consistent with global warming as well,” he said.

“This means that odds favour warmer-than-average temperatures more than in the past, and that’s what we’ve seen when you look at temperatures since the late 1980s and 90s. It also means that when conditions are favourable — such as when you have an El Niño, or when rainfall is lower over the Australian continent –we won’t just get warmer than average conditions, we actually start to push into record breaking events. So that change in frequency, or the probability of how warm temperatures are going to be from one year to the next — is certainly evident in the data that we have.”

The Bureau expects reasonable rainfall conditions over the next three months, consistent with light La Niña conditions in Pacific, with a 60-70 percent likelihood of wetter than average conditions for parts of the east coast, and Western Australia. Odds favour cooler than average conditions for parts of the continent, higher rainfall along the east coast and Western Australia, but warmer than average temperatures likely for the southern coastal region, including Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne and Tasmania.

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Orphaned baby dugong rescued but had 'nowhere to go'

09 January 2018, Central Telegraph (Australia)

Baby dugong rescue at Pallarenda on January 7. Photo Credit: ROXANA CAHA PHOTOGRAPHY

AN ORPHANED baby dugong that was found stranded on a Townsville beach at the weekend has been put down after State government officials admitted there was nowhere for it to go.

Staff from the Department of Environment and Science said they followed "expert advice" from a number of vets and organised the euthanasia of a juvenile dugong that became stranded on Sunday.

Rangers from Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service were assisted by members of the public with the attempted rescue of the dugong calf after it was found washed up on Pallarenda beach.

It was taken to the Reef HQ aquarium for temporary care.

A DES spokesman said despite a number of attempts to refloat the dugong calf, the animal continued to beach itself and its mother was not seen in area.

"As the animal could not survive in the wild without its mother … the department has liaised with vets to decide the best outcome for the animal in relation to its welfare," he said.

"Unfortunately in this situation, experts determined the dugong should be euthanised to prevent further suffering.

"A release into the wild without its mother would likely have only prolonged its suffering." The DES spokesman said appropriate housing facilities to care for dugongs in captivity didn't exist in Townsville and were not available in other parts of Queensland.

"DES staff wish to thank the members of the public who assisted in the attempted rescue by reporting the dugong to the appropriate authorities," he said.

Roxana Caha is a Townsville-based environmental professional and photographer and captured photos of the rescue.

"It was such a privilege to be part of the rescue of such an iconic animal, and to be able to document the rescue so that the experience could be shared with others," she said.

"I have been a keen scuba diver for over 15 years and had never seen a dugong in the wild so this is an experience I will never forget."

Stranded marine animals should be reported immediately to the RSPCA on 1300 264 625 (1300 ANIMAL).

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Red tide, boat collisions part of third deadliest year for manatees

08 January 2018, Naples Daily News (USA)

A red tide bloom was one of the contributing factors to the third-deadliest year on record for manatees in Florida, according to a state report recently released.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says there were 538 overall deaths in 2017, which trails only 2013 (830) and 2010 (766).

"In terms of significant contributing factors around that area, besides boating, red tide definitely contributed to this higher number of mortalities in general in 2017," said Michelle Kerr, with FWC's manatee management program. "A red tide in the spring impacted manatees from Pinellas County to Collier."

Kerr said there were 63 red tide deaths in Southwest Florida.

"The manatees are effected through red tide by ingesting sea grass, where the toxin has built up, and through the air," Kerr said. "The primary route is through sea grass where the red tide algae has built up on the sea grass."

Katie Tripp, with Save the Manatee Club, said the red tide impact was noticeable but less than in past years, when hundreds of carcasses washed ashore.

"We had some red tide, and it was higher than last year, but some years you have hundreds die like you’ve seen in Lee County and Indian River Lagoon," Tripp said. "We didn’t see spikes like that."

Red tide is a harmful algal bloom because it releases a neurotoxin that causes fish, marine mammal and sea turtle kills while also causing respiratory issues in humans.

"Manatees suffering from red tide may lose the ability to remain upright and have difficulty breathing and lack of coordination," Kerr said.

Lee was second in the state in overall deaths at 78, trailing Brevard County's total of 111.

Lee was No. 1 in the state for boat-related manatee deaths in 2017 for the seventh year in a row and the 10th time in the past 11 years.

Collier County had four boat-related kills and 11 overall recorded deaths, according to FWC records.

The number of boat deaths was 106, a number Tripp says can be lowered if all boaters paid attention while at the wheel.

"What I’m really focused on is trying to understand how many of those 106 were absolutely pure accidents where everybody was abiding by the law versus how many were hit when people just weren’t paying attention," Tripp said.

Biologists counted 6,620 manatees in February 2017, which is a baseline number and not an actual population estimate.

The counts are done during extremely cold conditions, when manatees are most likely to congregate in warm-water creeks and refuges like the Florida Power and Light plant along the Orange River just outside of Fort Myers.

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Scientists fear climate change is affecting Great Barrier Reef green sea turtles

09 January 2018, ABC Local (Australia)

Scientists fear climate change is affecting Great Barrier Reef green sea turtles, a species whose gender is determined by temperature.

In a US and Australian Government-funded study of the northern reef, east of Cooktown, fewer than one per cent of hatchlings were found to be male.

The research is published today in the journal, Current Biology.

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Duration: 3min 2sec
Broadcast: Tue 9 Jan 2018, 6:08am

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