Archive for October 2015

Oil Spill Disasters: Saving the Victims

As the Santa Barbara and the Deepwater Horizon oil spills showed, there’s no question that marine life suffers when caught in an oil spill. While the long-term effects on animals due to oil pollution are still being researched, we’re thankful for the wildlife responders and volunteers who try to rescue these victims before it’s too late.

There’s no question that the marine life suffers when caught in an oil spill. And while the long-term affects on animals due to oil pollution are still being researched, we’re thankful for the wildlife responders and volunteers who try to rescue these victims before it’s too late.

Between 700,000 to 1,000,000 species call the great blue abyss “home.” This thriving ecosystem, which makes up 71 percent of our planet, is filled with unique creatures from crustaceans to mammals. They face threats from many human activities, including oil spills such as May’s spill off the Southern California coast.

Oil pollution can mean a death sentence for organisms beneath the sea as well as above it. Without the help of wildlife responders, oil-saturated animals would struggle to survive as they fight infection, dehydration, malnourishment and hypothermia. Fortunately, volunteers, veterinarians, biologists and other specialists come together in these situations to help address the catastrophe.

What Is Oil Pollution?

Accidental release of hazardous liquid petroleum hydrocarbon into an ecosystem, especially the ocean, is an oil spill.

Oil has many ways of finding its way into the oceans – it may be leaking from a tanker like theExxon Valdez incident in 1989 or released by a broken offshore pipeline such as in the recentRefugio State Beach incident – and it means a massive outlay of resources to both clean up the water and the animals

“The consequences of what you can’t see are as important as what you can see. You can’t ever get it all out. There are so many nooks and crannies where the oil can hide,” Phyllis Grifman, associate director of the USC Sea Grant Program, told The Guardian.

How Is Marine Life Affected by Oil Pollution?

Marine birds, fish, dolphins, crustaceans, seals and otters are all vulnerable to oil spills. When dolphins surface to breathe, oil-saturated water can cover their blowhole, impair their breathing and enter their lungs. Marine birds may be unable to fly with oil-soaked feathers, so they attempt to clean themselves but end up accidentally swallowing the toxic substance, causing damage to their organs. Dead fish washing ashore are some of the most prolific victims of a large spill.

The recent spill off the coast of Santa Barbara released more than 100,000 gallons of crude oil into the ocean, resulting in the death of 195 birds and 106 marine mammals. Wildlife responders rescued 57 birds and 62 marine mammals.

The Deepwater Horizon incident of 2010, the largest accidental marine oil spill, released 4.9 million barrels, affecting 8,332 species.

Researchers are still trying to determine if oil can damage marine animals’ long-term health leading to issues with vision, reproduction, digestion and more.

How Can You Help?

Support organizations that are rescuing animals and conducting research on oil pollution.

Decrease your fossil fuel usage by car pooling, taking public transportation or using that bike you always say you’re going to get back on. Being fuel-efficient is a way to make the most of the gasoline and decrease the demand for it. Ensure your car or other motorized machines are not leaking oil. When disposing of old oil, do so properly. Consider eating less meat — carbon emissions from factory farming account for up to 51 percent of global greenhouse gases.

Raise awareness by telling a friend, co-worker or neighbor about the affects of oil pollution and encourage them to seek more information.

Source: Oil Spill Disasters: Saving the Victims | Sport Diver

Posted Saturday, 31 October 2015 by Culebra Snorkeling and Dive Center in Culebra Posts & Reviews

NOAA announces two new Habitat Focus Areas

The Northeast Reserves and Culebra Island, Puerto Rico; Biscayne Bay, Florida, targeted for conservation efforts

January 7, 2015

The beach at Culebra Island, Puerto Rico, which will be part of the two new Habitat Focus Areas announced by NOAA Fisheries today. (Credit: NOAA)

NOAA has selected two sites in the southeast and Caribbean as Habitat Focus Areas — places where the agency can maximize its habitat conservation investments and management efforts to benefit marine resources and coastal communities. These two new areas are Puerto Rico’s Northeast Reserves and Culebra Island, and Florida’s Biscayne Bay.

Under NOAA’s Habitat Blueprint, which provides a framework for NOAA to effectively improve habitats for fisheries, marine life, and coastal communities, Habitat Focus Areas are selected to prioritize long-term habitat science and conservation efforts. As a Habitat Focus Area, NOAA and partners will provide conservation planning and development of a watershed management plan.

“NOAA’s Habitat Blueprint illustrates our commitment to building resilient communities and natural resources by improving habitat conditions for fisheries and marine life, while also providing economic and environmental benefits,” said Bonnie Ponwith, Ph.D., director of NOAA Fisheries’ Southeast Fisheries Science Center. “This effort will promote the exchange of ideas and transfer of best management practices between the two sites. NOAA is eager to bring the whole team to the table with our partners to focus on these areas and achieve benefits for these communities and natural resources.”

Northeast Reserves and Culebra Island, Puerto Rico

The Northeast Reserves and Culebra habitats are home to coastal forests, wetlands, a bioluminescent lagoon, seagrass beds, shallow and deep coral reefs, and miles of pristine beaches. Popular for recreational, subsistence, and commercial fishing, the area also contains habitats that are vital to several threatened and endangered species. The site also supports the economy through marine transportation and tourism.

However, the ecological richness of the area is vulnerable to impacts from development, land-based pollution, fishing, and climate change.

NOAA is already engaged in a variety of coral research to support management efforts. The agency will also reduce threats to the habitats through conservation projects, long-term monitoring and research activities, habitat mapping, and training and education programs in the area.

Biscayne Bay, Florida

Biscayne Bay is a shallow, subtropical ecosystem with extensive seagrass cover, and a mangrove fringe along most of its shoreline. The bay contains more than 145,000 acres of habitat that is essential to commercially important species such as grouper and snapper in their early life stages. The bay supports many living marine resources, including protected species such as green and loggerhead sea turtles, bottlenose dolphins, and several threatened coral species. The bay’s ecosystem contributes to the economy of the surrounding area.

Scientists and resource managers are concerned that water quality issues could result in widespread loss of seagrass cover. NOAA will work to better understand water quality issues.

NOAA scientists will also restore, improve, and protect fishery habitats. In addition, NOAA will restore and maintain sustainable fish stocks, reduce marine debris impacts, and improve shoreline protection.

NOAA’s dedicated the first Habitat Focus Area in California’s Russian River watershed in 2013. Since then, the agency has added Guam’s Manell-Geus watershed, the west side of Hawaii’s Big Island, and Alaska’s Kachemak Bay.

Next steps for the Puerto Rico and Florida areas include developing implementation plans for each area.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on TwitterFacebookInstagram and our other social media channels. Visit our news release archive.

NOAA announces two new Habitat Focus Areas

The Northeast Reserves and Culebra Island, Puerto Rico; Biscayne Bay, Florida, targeted for conservation efforts

January 7, 2015

The beach at Culebra Island, Puerto Rico, which will be part of the two new Habitat Focus Areas announced by NOAA Fisheries today. (Credit: NOAA)

NOAA has selected two sites in the southeast and Caribbean as Habitat Focus Areas — places where the agency can maximize its habitat conservation investments and management efforts to benefit marine resources and coastal communities. These two new areas are Puerto Rico’s Northeast Reserves and Culebra Island, and Florida’s Biscayne Bay.

Under NOAA’s Habitat Blueprint, which provides a framework for NOAA to effectively improve habitats for fisheries, marine life, and coastal communities, Habitat Focus Areas are selected to prioritize long-term habitat science and conservation efforts. As a Habitat Focus Area, NOAA and partners will provide conservation planning and development of a watershed management plan.

“NOAA’s Habitat Blueprint illustrates our commitment to building resilient communities and natural resources by improving habitat conditions for fisheries and marine life, while also providing economic and environmental benefits,” said Bonnie Ponwith, Ph.D., director of NOAA Fisheries’ Southeast Fisheries Science Center. “This effort will promote the exchange of ideas and transfer of best management practices between the two sites. NOAA is eager to bring the whole team to the table with our partners to focus on these areas and achieve benefits for these communities and natural resources.”

Northeast Reserves and Culebra Island, Puerto Rico

The Northeast Reserves and Culebra habitats are home to coastal forests, wetlands, a bioluminescent lagoon, seagrass beds, shallow and deep coral reefs, and miles of pristine beaches. Popular for recreational, subsistence, and commercial fishing, the area also contains habitats that are vital to several threatened and endangered species. The site also supports the economy through marine transportation and tourism.

However, the ecological richness of the area is vulnerable to impacts from development, land-based pollution, fishing, and climate change.

NOAA is already engaged in a variety of coral research to support management efforts. The agency will also reduce threats to the habitats through conservation projects, long-term monitoring and research activities, habitat mapping, and training and education programs in the area.

Biscayne Bay, Florida

Biscayne Bay is a shallow, subtropical ecosystem with extensive seagrass cover, and a mangrove fringe along most of its shoreline. The bay contains more than 145,000 acres of habitat that is essential to commercially important species such as grouper and snapper in their early life stages. The bay supports many living marine resources, including protected species such as green and loggerhead sea turtles, bottlenose dolphins, and several threatened coral species. The bay’s ecosystem contributes to the economy of the surrounding area.

Scientists and resource managers are concerned that water quality issues could result in widespread loss of seagrass cover. NOAA will work to better understand water quality issues.

NOAA scientists will also restore, improve, and protect fishery habitats. In addition, NOAA will restore and maintain sustainable fish stocks, reduce marine debris impacts, and improve shoreline protection.

NOAA’s dedicated the first Habitat Focus Area in California’s Russian River watershed in 2013. Since then, the agency has added Guam’s Manell-Geus watershed, the west side of Hawaii’s Big Island, and Alaska’s Kachemak Bay.

Next steps for the Puerto Rico and Florida areas include developing implementation plans for each area.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on TwitterFacebookInstagram and our other social media channels. Visit our news release archive.

Source: NOAA announces two new Habitat Focus Areas

5 Facts About Successful Marine Protected Areas

Not all MPAs are created equal. Learn the features that help ensure environmental protection works.

 

Marine protected areas (MPA) are protected areas of seas, oceans or large lakes. MPAs restrict human activity for a conservation purpose, typically to protect natural or cultural resources.” – Wikipedia

———

 

It’s not enough to merely designate a marine protected area — a few key features are essential to its success.

Marine protected areas (MPAs) help reduce stress on marine ecosystems and protect spawning and nursery areas, but not only animals benefit — people benefit from the storm protection provided by habitats such as barrier islands, coral reefs, and wetlands, and gain economically from tourism and fishing.

More than 1,600 MPAs in the United States protect about 41 percent of marine waters in some capacity, 3 percent within no-take protected areas.

The Convention on Biological Diversity — a coalition of 168 countries — set a goal of protecting 10 percent of ocean waters by 2020, but scientists say that figure needs to be closer to 25 or 30 percent. Either way, protecting a certain percentage of water isn’t enough — it must be the right percentage.

“Oceans are not homogeneous, and not all MPAs are created equal,” says Rodolphe Devillers, Ph.D., a researcher and professor at the Memorial University of Newfoundland in Canada. “Protecting 1 percent one place does not equal protecting 1 percent somewhere else.” When Devillers and other researchers examined protected areas around the globe, they found that most MPA sites were chosen to minimize costs and conflict and, as a result, make almost no real contribution to conservation or protection of species or habitats. “MPAs are management tools to protect vulnerable marine life from human activities. Typically, areas most used by humans tend to be the ones that need the most protection — but they also are the hardest to sell politically.”

Overall, prohibiting extractive activities dramatically boosts MPA success. Yet only 1 percent of the world’s oceans and less than 3 percent of the U.S. MPA area is currently designated no-take.

In no-take reserves worldwide, research documented an average increase of 446 percent in total marine life. Density — or number of plants and animals in a given area — increased an average of 166 percent, and the number of species present increased an average of 21 percent.

No-take requires enforcement, another key feature of successful MPAs. This presents particular challenges in isolated locations, ironically another key characteristic of successful MPAs.

To overcome this challenge, the Pew Charitable Trusts in Washington, D.C., and Satellite Applications Catapult in the United Kingdom created a virtual-monitoring system, which so far monitors 10 locations worldwide.

Other features of successful MPAs include an age of 10 years or older and a size larger than 100 square kilometers.

“People want to believe that MPAs are like a magic wand, that with one fell swoop you can achieve bold and aggressive conservation outcomes,” says Doug Rader, chief oceans scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund. “That unfortunately is not the case. But where MPAs are designed to achieve or contribute to a conservation goal, and where a fair and science-based need is recognized, I don’t think there is a case that has been unsuccessful.”

Behind Every Successful MPA…
Tortugas North Ecological Reserve, Florida
Established in 2001 as a no-take reserve.

» Three commercially important fish species increased in abundance/size within three years.
» Responses were stronger in the reserve than the fished MPA for two of the three species, and stronger for all three species in fully fished areas.
» No financial loss for commercial or recreational fisheries, as well as higher coral coverage in the reserve than the MPA and unprotected sites.

Kisite Mpunguti Marine National Park, Kenya
Established in 1973; fishing prohibited in the 1990s.

» Fish biomass 11.6 times higher inside the reserve than in fully fished areas, and 2.8 times greater than in a fished MPA.
» Greater biodiversity and better protection for branching corals than a fished MPA.
» Higher fish diversity, approximately 10 more fish species per area sampled than in a fished MPA.

Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park, Baja California, Mexico
Created in the Gulf of California in 1995, no-take enforced by locals. Scientific surveys in 1999 and 2009 found no change in other Gulf of California MPAs, while at Cabo Pulmo:

» Predator biomass increased more than 1,000 percent.
» Total fish biomass increased 463 percent.
» Density of fish on the reef — 1.72 tons per acre — is some of the highest recorded anywhere in the world.

Five Easy Pieces
Successful marine protected areas around the world have five features in common, according to an analysis of 87 MPAs:

  1. No-take zone

  2. Effective enforcement

  3. Age greater than 10 years

  4. Size larger than 100 square kilometers

  5. Isolation

————————————————–

Source: 5 Facts About Successful Marine Protected Areas | Sport Diver

6 Ways to Care for an Underwater Camera Housing

Maintenance for your housing starts before you go diving. Here are six tips from the experts at ScubaLab.

1. MAINTENANCE for your housing starts before you go diving. At the start of a trip, remove the sealing O-ring from its groove, and apply a small amount of the supplied O-ring grease.

2. IT’S IMPORTANT TO CHECK the O-ring for any debris that might interfere with creating
 a seal. Do this while applying a light coating of grease to the O-ring, and every time you open and close your housing.

3. KEEP YOUR HOUSING OUT of the sun to prevent camera fogging. The best sunscreen is a damp towel — if you’re out in the hot sun, just place the towel over your housing. Always keep a couple of desiccants in the housing to help prevent it from fogging.

4. NEVER LEAVE your housing unattended 
in the camera-only rinse bucket, 
as this is where quite a bit of flooding occurs. People often throw their cameras in the bucket, or will mishandle your system to make room for theirs.

5. AFTER YOUR DIVE
 IS OVER, rinse your housing in fresh water to flush away all the salt water. Dip your housing in fresh water, and depress the control buttons in order to make sure all the salt is removed from the crevices.

6. ALL HOUSINGS REQUIRE some long-term maintenance. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for routine maintenance, such as replacing the O-rings and sending in the housing for
 a checkup.
 This should help you avoid costly repairs.

 

Source: 6 Ways to Care for an Underwater Camera Housing | Sport Diver

Posted Saturday, 31 October 2015 by Culebra Snorkeling and Dive Center in Culebra Posts & Reviews

10 Tips To Protect The Ocean Planet

Project Aware

Just like climbers and campers have an ethic or code to live by – so do scuba divers. Project AWARE first launched its environmental ethic more than two decades ago, which has helped guide millions of scuba divers on ways to do no harm and protect the underwater world.

Today, you can download and share the shiny, new10 Tips for Divers to Protect the Ocean Planet atprojectaware.org and stay tuned to upcoming issues of Sport Diver where we’ll explore these tips in more depth. Thank you for doing your part to protect the ocean and take these tips to heart each time you dive.

 

Divers share a deep connection with the ocean. You can make a difference for ocean protection every time you dive, travel and more.

1. Be a Buoyancy Expert
2. Be a Role Model
3. Take Only Photos – Leave Only Bubbles
4. Protect Underwater Life
5. Become a Debris Activist
6. Make Responsible Seafood Choices
7. Take Action
8. Be an Eco-tourist
9. Shrink Your Carbon Footprint
10. Give Back

Source: 10 Tips To Protect The Ocean Planet | Sport Diver

Massive Sargassum Seaweed Bloom is Choking The Caribbean — Climate Change a Likely Culprit

Posted Monday, 12 October 2015 by Culebra Snorkeling and Dive Center in Culebra Posts & Reviews

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