Thursday, May 17, 2012

U.S. Fisheries Continue to Improve

The latest numbers on the status of fisheries in the United States, released on Monday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), show continued progress toward ending overfishing.

Credit: Pew Environment Group, Data by NOAA

Six stocks that were previously overfished have been declared rebuilt—having reached a healthy population size—the biggest improvement since NOAA began issuing the reports in 1997. That raises the total number of rebuilt stocks to 27. "This is evidence that we are moving in the right direction and that sacrifices that fishermen have made are paying off," says Lee Crockett of the Pew Environment Group.

All told, 86% of the 258 major stocks reviewed by NOAA are in good shape.

But more remains to be done. Forty-five stocks remain overfished (the population is below the target) and 36 others are still "subject to overfishing," or, in other words, being caught at too high a rate. Both of these metrics, however, improved slightly from the previous year.

In a teleconference, Galen Tromble of NOAA's Office of Sustainable Fisheries credited the gains to the annual catch limits required by federal law and the rebuilding plans implemented by regional fisheries councils.

The six stocks now ready:

Source:  National Oceanic and Atmosperic Administration  (NOAA)

Monday, May 7, 2012

Dwarf Seahorse Needs Protection

The one-inch long dwarf seahorse may be threatened with extinction by lingering pollution from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, loss of habitat and overzealous collectors, according to findings by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The USFWS is now beginning a 12-month status review to determine if listing the species under the Endangered Species Act is warranted.

The Center for Biological Diversity's listing petition claims that 90 percent of the seagrass habitat off the coast of Florida has been lost since 1950.

 It is also cited that massive die-offs of seagrass and seahorses across the Gulf Coast due to ocean acidification from global warming and the damage caused by boat propellers and shrimp trawlers to be mitigating factors.

The public has until July 3 to comment on the USFWS 90-day finding on the petition. The USFWS will announce a public comment period for the species review at a later date. I will keep you updated.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Thank You

Thanks to all my readers for hanging in there as I change my blogs location and format. Your patience is really appreciated!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

How Much Is Too Much?

At the Offshore Technology Conference that opened Monday in Houston, a presentation focused on a plan to drill the deepest offshore well ever — a scientific project set for 2017 that will break into the seafloor under more than two miles of water.

While the well, which is aimed at retrieving a core of the Earth's mantle, will not produce oil, it will break the record for offshore drilling with a riser — a pipe used in oil drilling that reaches from the rig to the seafloor.

If successful, the accompanying innovations in drilling also could bring energy companies into contact with life and ecosystems even more obscure and less understood than the frontiers they already explore.

So when is it too much?

Pushing deeper underwater could endanger little-understood creatures such as the deep-water corals that were damaged after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill two years ago.

How sad would it be that these oil companies are going to be the first ones maybe to get anywhere near new species of corals and as of yet undiscovered marine life. Ultimately if they're not careful, they may also be the last.

For years the offshore industry's pursuit of oil has pushed drillers farther into the deep, bringing heavy machinery and remote-operated vehicles into some of the most alien reaches of the globe.

Already, oil companies have been scientific observers during deep-water operations. During Shell's development of its Perdido project 200 miles south of Freeport, a camera on an unmanned submarine captured the first images of an obscure creature in its natural habitat: a big-fin squid at a depth of about 6,399 feet below the surface. The Perdido project, which contains the world's deepest producing well at 9,267 feet, was also where workers operating another unmanned submarine spotted a Greenland sleeper shark 8,530 feet under water. The shark previously was thought to stay within 2,000 feet of the surface.