Culebra Snorkeling and Diving Photography in Culebra

Posted Monday, 30 April 2018 by Culebra Snorkeling and Dive Center in Culebra Posts & Reviews

Keep Culebra Clean !!

onemiltop10-FINAL-SM_0via Keep Culebra CLEAN !

Posted Sunday, 22 April 2018 by Culebra Snorkeling and Dive Center in Culebra Posts & Reviews

A little something about Culebra

cropped-smitty-at-sunset.jpg

After leaving Salinas, along with of sv Party of Five, sv Sea Frog, and sv Last Tango we headed east on an overnight passage to Culebra. Although there was no wind and we were, once again, making our way under power, we had flat seas and a beautiful night, that is until the motor stalled!  She started right back up and we continued on our merry way, when, a few minutes later she stalled again! It is not like Smitty to act up like this, obviously something is wrong- better let the armada know we may have an issue. Again, she started right back up and again about 15 minutes later she stalled – this time we were dead in the water.  Captain Jesse went down below looked over a few things and decided that a fuel filter change would do the trick to resolve our issue.  We started her back up and she ran great from that point on.:)  We safely arrived in Ensenada Honda, Culebra the next day.   ( read more )

Posted Sunday, 22 April 2018 by Culebra Snorkeling and Dive Center in Culebra Posts & Reviews

Culebra, Puerto Rico Snorkel Beaches & Dive Sites

Culebra’s Best Snorkel Beaches & Dive Sites

Culebra, the jewel of Puerto Rico, has some of the Caribbean’s easily accessible Snorkeling on the western shoreline from the northern most point on the Flamenco Peninsula to the southern most western shoreline ending at Punta del Soldado. As for Culebra’s best diving starting with the reefs that begin at the shoreline on the leeward side and slowly slopes away or forms walls with dramatic drop offs to any of Culebra’s barrier reefs or smaller Cayos (keys) which offer health coral colonies from depths of 25ft to 90ft. All are accessible by vehicle, foot, or a short boat ride . Once you arrive at your choice of Culebra’s Snorkel / dive site (beach) you find that all offer an easy entrance with a short swim to the reef ( 2 minutes on average ) or a mooring location with a minor swim for divers.

The range of Culebra’s snorkeling & diving will impressed all with its diversity. Snorkeling on Culebra’s western shoreline offers different reef settings from barrier mini walls with depths of 15-25ft, shallow sloping shoreline reefs ranging 15-35ft depth to dramatic 60-75ft shoreline reef walls all with diverse aquatic wildlife also suitable for shore diving. There are sites perfect for beginners or experienced Snorkelers and Divers; from those who want to take it easy, as well as a more challenging, experienced or adventurous dive/snorkel day swimming thru caverns or poking into the caves. The challenge may take the forum of shallow underwater terrain requiring excellent buoyancy control to basic navigation knowledge around surface growing coral. Equally, if your idea of heaven is a 60-plus minute dive in shallow water crowded with marine life that abound amongst huge health coral heads then many areas offer multiple choices. The coral diversity will impress you with multiple coral species living side-by-side on the shoreline areas of Culebra.

WEEK OF SNORKELING or DIVING ON CULEBRA

Culebra Beach Snorkeling / Diving Day 1

Playa Melones (Beach) Common Name – “the barrier reef” [am]
Average Depth: 15ft-25ft Visibility 45ft+
Reef Description – Hard & Soft coral barrier wall bordered by a Dense Sea Grass Field
Sites Use – Melones: Shore Diving / Shore or Boat Snorkeling / 3 sites
Punta Del Soldado Common Name – “Soldiers Point southern end ” [pm]
Average Depth: 15ft-65ft Visibility 65ft+
Reef Description – Hard & Soft coral sloping reef large coral heads in a spaced colony
Sites Use – Punta Del Soldado: Shore or Boat Snorkeling / Shore or Boat Diving 3+ sites

Culebra Beach Snorkeling/Diving Day 2

Playa Carlos Rosario [ AREA 2 ] Common Name – “the wall part 1 southern section ” [ am/pm ]-
Average Depth: 10ft-75ft Visibility 80ft+
Reef Description – Hard & Soft dense coral wall honey combed with layers
Site Use – Carlos Rosario: Shore or Boat Snorkeling / Boat Diving – 5+ sites

Culebra Beach Snorkeling / Diving Day 3

Playa Tamarindo (Beach) [ Tamarindo AREA 2 ] Common Name-” Tamarindo i.e./ turtle beach / turtle area ” [am]
Average Depth: 10ft-20ft Visibility 45ft+
Reef Description – Sea Grass Beds densely situated or Sea Grass fields of sparse population
Sites Use – Tamarindo: Shore Diving / Shore Snorkeling / 2 sites
Playa Cascajo South End [ AREA 3 ] Common Name – ” soldiers pt. north end ” [pm]
Average Depth: 10ft-35ft Visibility 45ft
Reef Description – Hard & Soft coral wall bordered by multiple Sea Grass Fields
Sites Use – Playa Cascajo: Boat Snorkeling / Boat Diving 5+ sites

Culebra Beach Snorkeling / Diving Day 4

Carlos Rosario Beach [ AREA 1 ] Common Name – ” the horseshoe / entrance ” [am]
Average Depth: 15ft-40ft Visibility 50ft +
Reef Description – Hard & Soft coral sloping reef with species reef blocks [areas]
Sites Use – Carlos Rosario: Shore or Boat Snorkeling / Boat Diving 5+ sites
Playa Cascajo North [AREA 1] Common Name – “Cascajo North to Cascajo Central areas” [pm]
Average Depth: 15ft-35ft Visibility 45ft +
Reef Description – Sea Grass Beds densely situated growing in front of a barrier reef wall
Sites Use – Playa Cascajo North [AREA 1]: Shore or Boat Snorkeling / Shore or Boat Diving 5+ sites

Culebra Beach Snorkeling / Diving Day 5

Playa Tamarindo (Beach) [ Tamarindo AREA 2 ] Common Name – “Tamarindo i.e. / turtle beach / turtle Area” [am]
Average Depth: 10ft-20ft Visibility 45ft+
Reef Description – Sea Grass Beds densely situated or Sea Grass fields of sparse population
Sites Use – Tamarindo: Shore Diving / Shore Snorkeling / 2 sites
Melones / Pt. Chico Tamarindo [ Tamarindo AREA 3 ] Common Name – “Pt. Chico “[pm]
Average Depth: 15ft-35ft Visibility 50ft+
Reef Description – Hard & Soft coral wall floating off the surface and honey combed
Sites Use – Melones / Pt. Chico Tamarindo: Shore or Boat Diving / Shore or Boat Snorkeling/ 3+ sites

Culebra Beach Snorkeling / Diving Day 6

Playa Carlos Rosario ( Beach ) Common Name – “the wall part 2 / the wall extension / north section” [ am ]
Average Depth: 15ft-75ft Visibility 75ft+
Reef Description – Hard & Soft coral within multiple layers densely situated
Sites Use – Carlos Rosario: Shore or Boat Snorkeling / Boat Diving 5+ sites
Tamarindo Grande [ Tamarindo AREA 1] Common Name – Punta Tamarindo Grande (Point) [pm]
Average Depth: 15ft-35ft Visibility 50ft+
Reef Description – Hard & Soft coral wall densely situated and Sea Grass Beds
Sites Use – Tamarindo Grande [pm]: Shore or Boat Snorkeling / Boat Diving 2 sites

Culebra Beach Snorkeling / Diving Day 7

Playa Tamarindo (Beach) [ Tamarindo AREA 2] Common Name – “Tamarindo i.e./turtle beach / turtle Area” [am]
Average Depth: 10ft-20ft Visibility 45ft+
Reef Description – Sea Grass Beds densely situated or Sea Grass fields of sparse population
Sites Use – Tamarindo: Shore Diving / Shore Snorkeling / 2 sites
Playa Flamenco ( Beach ) Common Name – “ del moisutio / the shark pens“ [pm]
Average Depth: 15ft-35ft Visibility 40ft+
Reef Description – Hard & Soft coral densely packed on a barrier wall
Sites Use – Flamenco Beach: Shore Diving / Shore Snorkeling / 2 sites

The western shoreline of Culebra is on the leeward side of the island and protected from the wind and swell 90% of the year. Low pressure or large weather systems will change the swell direction as it is passing Culebra. Most Snorkeling Centers on Culebra can offer daily detail information including, water temperature, swell or wave height, and visibility for all locations on Culebra. On shore and offshore conditions vairy depended on location. Getting current daily conditions and best site suggestions for locations that will offer optimum snorkeling and diving conditions always increases the day’s positive activity outlook.

Culebra, Puerto Rico Scuba Gear Rental BCD Mares Rover Pro just  $ 35.00 per day

About Mares Rover PRO BCD

The Mares Rover PRO BCD is a rugged and “off road” Jacket Style BCD. Manufactured from UV Protected 1000 Cordura with an Internal Urethane Laminate this Strong and Hardy BCD is not subject to color fading. The Rover BCD has Torso Adjustable Shoulder Straps, Adjustable Waist Strap and Cummerbund with Squeeze” Style Quick Release Buckles for a Custom Fit. Custom Shaped Pockets keep the Octopus and Instruments close at hand. 

Buoyancy Control is established with the Ergo Inflator with 3/8″ Threaded LP Hose, Rear Quick-Dump/Over-Pressure Relief Valves and Shoulder Cable Activated Pull Dump. The Ergo is the standard Inflation/Deflation Control Unit on Mares BCD’s, the Ergo Inflator has been designed according to Ergonomic Guidelines, Intuitive to use and offers Maximum Grip. With Adjustable Chest Strap, Plastic D-Rings for Accessory attachment and 53.8 lbs (24.4 kg) of Lift, the Rover PRO BCD is a great choice for Buoyancy Control. BCD comes with an Owner’s Manual and a 24 month limited warranty.

Mares Rover PRO BCD Specifications

BC Body
Jacket Style
Buoyancy Bag
53.8 Lbs (24.4 Kg)
Valves
2 Over Pressure Relief/Pull Dump, Shoulder Cable Activated Pull Dump
Pockets
2
Shoulder Straps
Torso Adjustable
Stainless Steel Rings
No, 2 Plastic
Waist Strap
Adjustable Webbing And Cummerbund
Chest Buckle
Yes, Adjustable Sternum
Oral Inflator
Ergo Power Inflator
Materials
1000 Codura With Urethane Laminated Interior
Available in the Following Sizes:
LargeMediumSmallX-LargeX-SmallXX-LargeXX-Small

Warranty Information

This product has a limited warranty of 24 months

Posted Tuesday, 11 April 2017 by Culebra Snorkeling and Dive Center in Culebra Posts & Reviews

DEET-free insect repellent that really works! Natrapel®

                                    

It’s about time – a DEET-free insect repellent that really works! Natrapel® provides 8+ hours of protection from mosquitos, ticks and other biting insects, thanks to its CDC-recommended 20% Picaridin formula. Unlike ineffective DEET alternatives, Picaridin is the only formula that consistently shows equal or better performance than DEET in independent, clinical tests. Even better, Natrapel®  is completely safe on gear and will not melt clothing, jackets, fishing line, and other synthetic materials. The 6 oz. continuous spray bottle provides effortless, even application.

  • CDC-Recommended Formula
    20% Picaridin is the recommended concentration to guard against diseases transmitted by insects including the Zika Virus, West Nile Virus, Eastern Equine Encephalitis, Lyme Disease, and Dengue Fever.
  • Easy to Apply/Easy on the Air
    Eco-Spray can delivers even, continuous spray without releasing harmful aerosols.
  • Safe on Your Gear
    DEET-Free formula won’t melt jackets, fishing line, and other plastics.
  • Lasts All Day
    Enjoy 8-plus hours of tick & mosquito protection!

Active ingredients

Picaridin 20%

Effectiveness Aedes Mosquitoes (hrs.)

8

Effectiveness Culex Mosquitoes (hrs.)

8

Effectiveness Deer Ticks (hrs.)

6

® 8-hour provides 8+ hours of protection from biting insects and ticks. This protection is due to its CDC-recommended 20% Picaridin formula. Unlike ineffective DEET alternatives, Something as simple as an insect repellent and bite treatment are guaranteed to make any trip more comfortable and safe. Our new travel-friendly size of Natrapel is easy to carry, apply and offer long lasting protection.”






Posted Saturday, 1 April 2017 by Culebra Snorkeling and Dive Center in Culebra Posts & Reviews

Personal Care and Sunscreen Ingredients to Avoid

Personal Care and Sunscreen Ingredients to Avoid

There are no federal regulations defining the use of words like ‘natural’ or ‘green’ when it pertains to biodegradable sunscreens, personal care products or cosmetics. Some brands will add a very small percentage of an ingredient in their products, then put safe, natural, green or organic on the label. This is not only misleading, but is not cool! The chemist, the explorer and the environmentalist all wish for a world where every consumer reads the ingredients panel of every product they choose to use… and begins to pick out some ingredients that may not only be harmful to your body, but also to our fragile marine environment. Here are some key body care and sunscreen ingredients to avoid that we’d like you to be conscious of:

Benzophenone-3, also know as Oxybenzone

A very common ingredient in FDA approved sunscreens. Very effective at reducing UV exposure, it is also classified as a hazardous irritant for eye contact and slightly hazardous for direct skin contact. (https://www.spectrumchemical.com/MSDS/B3409.pdf). This ingredient penetrates the skin and is also used to help other chemicals penetrate the skin. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 97 percent of Americans have this chemical circulating in our bodies. Also listed as a direct cause of coral bleaching by Robert Davanero et al – there is strong cause to avoid all products using this ingredient: (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2291018/)

Cylcopentasiloxane / Cyclomethicone

Silicone-based ingredients that are used in skin and hair care products. They soften the skin and smooth hair follicles, but they’ve also been shown to be toxic and to bio-accumulate in aquatic organisms. They are also suspected to be reproductive toxins and endocrine disruptors.

Formaldehyde, Diazolidinyl urea, Quaternium-15, DMDM Hydantoin and Hydroxymethylglycinate

Formaldehyde – you won’t see formaldehyde listed on any of your personal care products, but many of the preservatives that have been used as paraben replacements RELEASE formaldehyde! Diazolidinyl urea, Quaternium-15, DMDM Hydantoin andHydroxymethylglycinate are all formaldehyde releasers. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified formaldehyde as a human carcinogen. It is also an ecotoxin.

Homosalate

Another very common sunscreen ingredient that, for health concerns, is limited to less than 10% in a formula by the FDA. Its used as a UV absorber that helps sunscreen ingredients penetrate your skin. It bio-accumulates in the body faster than it can be eliminated and is considered a hormone disrupter.

Methylisothiazolinone

A widely used and very effective preservative. It is considered a sensitizer and irritant, is associated with allergic reactions, and lab studies are suggesting that it may be a neurotoxin. It is also considered an ecotoxin.

Microbeads

Most commonly used in cleansers and exfoliants, but also found in other personal care products like toothpastes. Because they are so fine, most wastewater treatment plants cannot filter these and they end up in the environment. These have been found in fish and other aquatic species.

Nano particles

These are insoluble or biopersistant materials with a size of 1 to 100 nanometers, which can be up to 100,000 times smaller than a human hair! Nanomaterials can react in the body and environment differently from the same material that is non-nano. Although manufacturers have stated that nanoparticles are safe, there are still concerns among scientists. A recent study has shown that zinc oxide nanoparticles, even in extremely low concentrations, caused significant developmental disorders in sea life (http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.est.5b00345) When nano sunscreens wash off people’s bodies, they can harm our environment. If you are using a mineral sunscreen, zinc or titanium, make sure it is non-nano grade.

Octocrylene

A synthetic UV absorber and SPF booster. It may cause allergic reactions in those with sensitive skin and has been shown to bio-accumulate in the body.

Oxtinoxate / Octyl methoxycinnamate

Also a commonly used UV filter approved by the FDA for use in sunscreens. It is absorbed through the skin and has been found in human urine, blood and breast milk, showing that it is systematically absorbed. It is an endocrine disruptor that can mimic hormones. Also listed as a direct cause for coral bleaching by Robert Davanero et al – there is strong cause to avoid all products using this ingredient:http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2291018/

Parabens

Including propylparaben, benzylparaben, methylparaben and butylparaben are commonly used to prevent the growth of bacteria, yeast and molds in personal care products like shampoos, lotions and sunscreens. These ingredients can mimic the hormone estrogen which has been known to contribute to breast cancer and can also mimic other hormones in the body. The good news is that many brands, including many in the main-stream, have recognized the cause for concern and will clearly label their products as ‘paraben-free’, but many still use this effective and inexpensive preservative. Read your labels, friends!

Phthalates

Commonly found in synthetic fragrances, block male hormones and can interfere with normal genitalia development. High levels can cause sluggish sperm and low testosterone levels in adult males. These are also classified as endocrine disruptors that can interfere with normal brain function. Although this doesn’t guarantee there are no phthalates in the formula, look for fragrances that are designated as ‘natural’ or derived from essential oils. Some companies will also state phthalate free on their labels or in their marketing literature.

Quaternium-15

A very effective, broad antimicrobial ingredient preservative that is suspected to be a formaldehyde releaser. Used in low concentrations, it is still classified as a skin, eye, and respiratory irritant. According to SafeCosmetics.org: The North American Contact Dermatitis Group considers quaternium-15 to be among the most clinically significant contact allergens in children.

Retinyl Palmitate

Often found in many cosmetics and skin care products, is composed of palmitic acid and retinol (Vitamin A). When exposed to UV light (or sunshine), retinol compounds break down and produce toxic free radicals that can damage the skin. The FDA has raised concern that extensive, daily skin application of vitamin A creams may build up a high enough level of Vitamin A that may be toxic to a developing fetus.

Sodium lauryl and laureth sulfate (SLS/SLES)

A surfactant, detergent and emulsifier that creates lots of lather in shampoos and body washes. Although SLS is ‘derived from coconuts,’ the resulting molecule is VERY different from any coconut we’ve ever seen. A quick look at the ingredient’s MSDS sheet shows lots of potential for concern. They have been mentioned in nearly 16,000 studies in the PubMed science library about the toxicity of this chemical. Although the suppliers maintain that actual health risk varies based on the level of exposure to the ingredient, we maintain that it is the gradual, long term exposure that really counts and encourage you to avoid using this ingredient in any of your body care products.  https://www.spectrumchemical.com/MSDS/S4160.pdf If that wasn’t enough to deter you, SLS is also listed as ‘toxic to aquatic organisms’http://www.pesticideinfo.org/Detail_Chemical.jsp?Rec_Id=PC35205

Zinc Oxide

Yes, Zinc is found naturally in the environment and in seawater; however, we are suggesting that you use extreme caution when choosing zinc based sunscreens that are promoted as ‘clear’ or ‘transparent.’ Some of these dispersions have the ability of offering a transparent zinc without having to use nano particles. BUT if you review the MSDS sheet of these materials – even the all natural version used in natural products – they are all listed as marine pollutants and have ‘a component listed as highly toxic to aquatic organisms.’ Some of these have ‘Attention! Highly toxic to fish and/or other aquatic organisms’ listed on first page of MSDS, others are buried under Section 12 of the MSDS sheet.

Posted Saturday, 1 April 2017 by Culebra Snorkeling and Dive Center in Culebra Posts & Reviews

Biodegradable Ocean and Coral Reef Safe Sunscreens

Biodegradable Ocean and Coral Reef Safe Sunscreens

The Concern: Certain ingredients in sunscreens are toxic to corals and reef fishes. Studies have shown that sunscreens worn by swimmers, divers, snorkelers, fishermen and general “aquaholics” contributed to the decline of coral reefs. Between 6,000 and 14,000 tons of sunscreen washes off into our coral reefs every year and accelerates the process of coral reefs bleaching, as well being toxic to certain reef fish species.

Common sunscreen ingredients, such as Benzophenone-3, also know as Oxybenzone, can bleach coral and damage coral reefs. Cylcopentasiloxane/Cyclomethicone are silicone-based ingredients, used in skin and hair care products, have also been shown to be toxic and to bio-accumulate in aquatic organisms. They are also suspected to be reproductive toxins and endocrine disruptors. Learn more >

JOIN THE RACE TO MAKE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE THIS WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY

Posted Monday, 27 March 2017 by Culebra Snorkeling and Dive Center in Culebra Posts & Reviews

Saying no to single-use plastic

Posted Monday, 27 March 2017 by Culebra Snorkeling and Dive Center in Culebra Posts & Reviews

Snorkeling in Culebra with a 2.5 wetsuit

The 411 on Wetsuit Information

The HEAD Wave 2.5 Men’s Shorty Wetsuit is perfect for any water activity, designed to sta817QwWHbmRL._SY450_y durable and flattering day in and day out.

DESCRIPTION

Full wetsuit for breaststroke and all other water sports. A basic and functional wetsuit in 2.5 mm neoprene. Full length. Ideal for those who intend to swim breaststroke, snorkel, or dive in tropical waters.  Nylon covered neoprene, both inside and outside, makes the suit very durable.

Features

  • Nylon / Neoprene

  • Flat-lock stitched seams.

  • Thickness: 2.5mm.

  • Short sleeves and legs.

  • YKK rear zipper with leash.

  • High-stretch.

  • 1-year limited warranty

7535966-9325-1a-zoomin.jpgSeals Seals at the neck, wrists and ankles keep water from entering the wetsuit. Rolled smooth-skin seals do the best job, but standard smooth-skin seals are also effective, followed by O-ring seals. Many suits use nylon cuffs in place of seals, which are comfortable but don’t block water intrusion.

Body Armor Flexible kneepads provide substantial coverage for the knee and leg area but don’t hinder swimming. Anti-abrasion patches on shoulders and rear protect the wetsuit in high-wear areas.Ybor

Seams Glued and blind stitched seams eliminate water seepage because the needle doesn’t go through the fabric. Flat-seam or flat-lock stitching is softer against the skin but allows water in, making it better suited for warm-water suits.

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Materials Modern high-stretch neoprene increases comfort and flexibility. Traditional neoprene is stiffer but resists compression better. Many suits use both types: compression-resistant neoprene for its thermal advantages, and strategically placed, anatomically shaped high-stretch panels to address the flexibility issue.

Zippers A high-quality zipper backed by a smooth-skin sealing system creates a water-blocking barrier that can’t be beat. Some suits employ zippers with overlapping teeth designed to reduce water seepage even further

About Hawksbill Turtles found around Culebra

hawksbill turtlemap of hawksbill turtle range worldwide

Did You Know?
In the Caribbean, an adult hawksbill eats an average of 1200 lbs (544 kg) of sponges a year!
Hawksbills are capable of nesting faster than any other species of sea turtles and can complete the entire process in less than 45 minutes.
Status
ESA Endangered – throughout its range
CITES Appendix I – throughout its range
Species Description
Weight:   Adult: 100-150 pounds (45-70 kg)    Hatchling: 0.5 ounces (15 g)
Length: 25-35 inches (65-90 cm)
Appearance: top shell (carapace) is dark to golden brown, with streaks of orange, red, and/or black with a serrated back and overlapping “scutes”, while the bottom shell (plastron) is clear yellow; hatchlings are mostly brown
Lifespan: unknown
Diet: sponges and other invertebrates, algae
Behavior: females return to the beaches where they were born (natal beaches) to nest, which occurs every 2-3 years at night and approximately every 14-16 days during the nesting season
The hawksbill turtle is small to medium-sized compared to other sea turtle species.
Their head is elongated and tapers to a point, with a beak-like mouth that gives the species its name. The shape of the mouth allows the hawksbill turtle to reach into holes and crevices of coral reefs to find sponges, their primary food source as adults, and other invertebrates.
Hawksbill turtles are unique among sea turtles in that they have two pairs of prefrontal scales on the top of the head and each of the flippers usually has two claws.
Male hawksbills mature when they are about 27 inches (70 cm) long. Females mature at about 30 inches (80 cm). The ages at which turtles reach these lengths are unknown.
Female hawksbills return to the beaches where they were born (natal beaches) every 2-3 years to nest. They usually nest high up on the beach under or in the beach/dune vegetation. They commonly nest on pocket beaches, with little or no sand. They nest at night, and they nest about every 14-16 days during the nesting season. The nesting season varies with locality, but in most locations nesting occurs sometime between April and November. A female hawksbill generally lays 3-5 nests per season, which contain an average of 130 eggs. Eggs incubate for around 2 months.
Habitat
Hawksbill turtles use different habitats at different stages of their life cycle, but are most commonly associated with healthy coral reefs.
Post-hatchlings (oceanic stage juveniles) are believed to occupy the “pelagic” environment, taking shelter in floating algal mats and drift lines of flotsam and jetsam in the Atlantic.
In the Pacific, the pelagic habitat of hawksbill juveniles is unknown. After a few years in the pelagic zone, small juveniles recruit to coastal foraging grounds; their size at recruitment is approximately 8-10 inches (20-25 cm) in carapace length in the Atlantic and about 15 inches (38 cm) in carapace length in the Pacific. This shift in habitat also involves a shift in feeding strategies, from feeding primarily at the surface to feeding below the surface primarily on animals associated with coral reef environments. Here, juveniles begin feeding on a varied diet.
In the Caribbean, as hawksbills grow they begin exclusively feeding on only a few types of sponges. However, in the Indo-Pacific, hawksbills continue eating a varied diet that includes sponges, other invertebrates, and algae.
The ledges and caves of coral reefs provide shelter for resting hawksbills both during the day and at night. Hawksbills are known to inhabit the same resting spot night after night. Hawksbills are also found around rocky outcrops and high energy shoals, which are also optimum sites for sponge growth. They are also known to inhabit mangrove-fringed bays and estuaries, particularly along the eastern shore of continents where coral reefs are absent.
Critical Habitat
Critical habitat was designated in 1998 for hawksbill turtles in coastal waters surrounding Mona and Monito Islands, Puerto Rico.
Distribution
Hawksbill turtles are circumtropical, usually occurring from 30° N to 30° S latitude in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans and associated bodies of water. Hawksbills are widely distributed throughout the Caribbean Sea and western Atlantic Ocean, regularly occurring in southern Florida and the Gulf of Mexico (especially Texas), in the Greater and Lesser Antilles, and along the Central American mainland south to Brazil. Hawksbills do not occur in the Mediterranean Sea.
Within the U.S., hawksbills are most common in Puerto Rico and its associated islands and in the U.S. Virgin Islands. In the continental U.S., hawksbills are found primarily in Florida and Texas, though they have been recorded in all the Gulf States and along the east coast as far north as Massachusetts. In Florida, hawksbills are observed on the reefs off Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade, and Monroe Counties. Most sightings involve post-hatchlings and juveniles. These small turtles are believed to originate from nesting beaches in Mexico.
Along the Pacific Rim, hawksbills nest sporadically in the southern part of the Baja peninsula, while sightings of juveniles and sub-adults foraging along the coast occur more regularly. A small nesting population exists along the Eastern Pacific coast from Guatemala to Ecuador (Gaos et al. 2006).
Within the Central Pacific, nesting is widely distributed, though scattered and in very low numbers. The largest concentrations of nesting hawksbills in the Pacific occur on remote oceanic islands of Australia and in the Indian Ocean (for example, Republic of Seychelles). Foraging hawksbills have been reported from virtually all of the island groups of Oceania and from the Galapagos Islands in the eastern Pacific to the Republic of Palau in the western Pacific (Witzell 1983, Prichard 1982a, b). Along the far western and southwestern Pacific, hawksbills nest on islands and mainland Asia from China and Japan, through the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia to Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands (McKeown 1977), and Australia (Limpus 1982).
Research indicates that adult hawksbill turtles are capable of migrating long distances between nesting beaches and foraging areas, which are comparable to migrations of green and loggerhead turtles. In the Atlantic, a female hawksbill tagged at Buck Island Reef National Monument in the U.S. Virgin Islands traveled 1,160 miles (1,866 km) to the Miskito Cays in Nicaragua (Spotila 2004).
Population Trends
Hawksbills are solitary nesters and, thus, determining population trends or estimates on nesting beaches is difficult. The largest populations of hawksbills are found in the Caribbean, the Republic of Seychelles, Indonesia, and Australia.
The most significant nesting within the U.S. occurs in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, specifically on Mona Island and Buck Island, respectively. Each year, about 500-1000 hawksbill nests are laid on Mona Island, Puerto Rico (Diez and van Dam 2006) and another 100-150 nests on Buck Island Reef National Monument off St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands (Z. Hillis-Starr. pers. comm.). Nesting also occurs on other beaches in St. Croix and on St. John, St. Thomas, Culebra Island, Vieques Island, and mainland Puerto Rico. Within the continental U.S., nesting is restricted to the southeast coast of Florida and the Florida Keys, but nesting is rare in these areas. No nesting occurs on the west coast of the U.S. mainland. In the U.S. Pacific, hawksbills nest only on main island beaches in Hawaii, primarily along the east coast of the island of Hawaii. Hawksbill nesting has also been documented in American Samoa and Guam.
In addition to nesting beaches in the U.S. Caribbean, hawksbills nest at numerous other sites throughout the Caribbean, with the majority of nesting occurring in Mexico and Cuba. In Mexico, about 2,800 hawksbills nest in Campeche, Yucatán, and Quintana Roo each year (Spotila 2004). Lutz et al. estimate the number of adult hawksbills living in the Caribbean today is 27,000 (2003).
The largest nesting population of hawksbills appears to occur in Australia. Approximately 2,000 hawksbills nest on the northwest coast of Australia and about 6,000 to 8,000 off the Great Barrier Reef each year (Spotila 2004). Additionally, about 2,000 hawksbills nest each year in Indonesia and 1,000 in the Republic of Seychelles (Spotila 2004).
Threats
hawksbill turtle underwater
Hawksbill Turtle     (Eretmochelys imbricata)

habitat loss of coral reef communities
harvest of their eggs and meat
commercial exploitation (historically, but still permitted in some parts of the world)
increased recreational and commercial use of nesting beaches in the Pacific
incidental capture in fishing gear
general threats to marine turtles

Hawksbills face threats on both nesting beaches and in the marine environment. The primary global threat to hawksbills is habitat loss of coral reef communities. Coral reefs are vulnerable to destruction and degradation caused by human activities. Humans can alter coral reefs either gradually (i.e., pollution can degrade habitat quality) or catastrophically (for example, toxic spills and vessel groundings). Recent evidence suggests that global climate change is negatively impacting coral reefs by causing higher incidences of coral diseases, which can ultimately kill entire coral reef communities. Hawksbill turtles rely on coral reefs for food resources and habitat. As these communities continue to decline in quantity and quality, hawksbills will have reduced foraging opportunities and limited habitat options.
Historically, commercial exploitation was the primary cause of the decline of hawksbill sea turtles. There remains a continuing demand for the hawksbill’s shell as well as other products, including leather, oil, perfume, and cosmetics. The British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Haiti, and the Turks and Caicos Islands (U.K.) all permit some form of legal take of hawksbill turtles. In the northern Caribbean, hawksbills are directly harvested primarily for their carapace, which is often carved into hair clips, combs, jewelry, and other trinkets. Whole stuffed turtles are sold as curios in the tourist trade.
Hawksbill products are openly available in the Dominican Republic and Jamaica despite a prohibition on harvesting hawksbills and eggs (Fleming 2001).
Additionally, hawksbills are harvested for their eggs and meat. In the Pacific, directed harvest of nesting females and eggs on the beach and hawksbills in the water is still widespread. Directed take is a major threat to hawksbills in American Samoa, Guam, the Republic of Palau, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands (NOAA Fisheries and USFWS 1998).
In addition to directed harvest, increased human presence is a threat to hawksbills throughout the Pacific. In particular, increased recreational and commercial use of nesting beaches, beach camping and fires, litter and other refuse, general harassment of turtles, and loss of nesting habitat from human activities negatively impact hawksbills.
Incidental capture in fishing gear, primarily gillnets, and vessel strikes also adversely affect this species’ recovery.
e.
Conservation Efforts
The highly migratory behavior of sea turtles makes them shared resources among many nations. Thus, conservation efforts for sea turtle populations in one country may be jeopardized by activities in another. Protecting sea turtles on U.S. nesting beaches and in U.S. waters alone, therefore, is not sufficient to ensure the continued existence of the species.
Sea turtles are protected by various international treaties and agreements as well as national laws:
CITES: listed in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna, which prohibits international trade
CMS: listed in Appendices I and II of the Convention on Migratory Species and are protected under the following auspices of CMS:
IOSEA: Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation and Management of Marine Turtles and their Habitats of the Indian Ocean and South-East Asia
Memorandum of Understanding Concerning Conservation Measures for Marine Turtles of the Atlantic Coast of Africa
SPAW: protected under Annex II of the Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife Protocol of the Cartagena Convention
IAC: The U.S. is a party of the Inter-American Convention for the Protection and Conservation of Sea Turtles, which is the only international treaty dedicated exclusively to marine turtles
In the U.S., NOAA Fisheries(NMFS) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) have joint jurisdiction for leatherback turtles, with NOAA having the lead in the marine environment and USFWS having the lead on the nesting beaches. Both federal agencies, along with many state agencies and international partners, have issued regulations to eliminate or reduce threats to sea turtles, while working together to recover them.
In the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, we have required measures to reduce sea turtle bycatch in pelagic longline, mid-Atlantic gillnet, Chesapeake Bay pound net, and southeast shrimp and flounder trawl fisheries, such as gear modifications changes to fishing practices
time/ area closures NOAA Fisheries have worked closely with the shrimp trawl fishing industry to develop turtle excluder devices (TEDs) to reduce the mortality of sea turtles incidentally captured in shrimp trawl gear. TEDs that are large enough to exclude even the largest sea turtles are now required in shrimp trawl nets. Since 1989, the U.S. has prohibited the importation of shrimp harvested in a manner that adversely affects sea turtles. The import ban does not apply to nations that have adopted sea turtle protection programs comparable to that of the U.S. (i.e., require and enforce the use of TEDs) or to nations where incidental capture in shrimp fisheries does not present a threat to sea turtles (for example, nations that fish for shrimp in areas where sea turtles do not occur).
The U.S. Department of State is the principal implementing agency of this law, while we serve as technical advisor. We provide extensive TED training throughout the world.
We are also involved in cooperative gear research projects designed to reduce sea turtle bycatch in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic pelagic longline fisheries, the Hawaii-based deep set longline fishery, the Atlantic sea scallop dredge fishery, the Chesapeake Bay pound net fishery, and non-shrimp trawl fisheries in the Atlantic and Gulf.
Regulatory Overview
The hawksbill turtle was listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) as endangered in 1970.
In 1998, We designated critical habitat for hawksbill turtles to include the coastal waters surrounding Mona and Monito Islands, Puerto Rico.
Taxonomy
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Testudines
Family: Cheloniidae
Genus: Eretmochelys
Species: imbricata
http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/turtles/

Posted Sunday, 5 February 2017 by Culebra Snorkeling and Dive Center in Culebra Posts & Reviews

Snorkeling Wetsuit    –    all sizes available

​Reef Shorty        2.5mm      Warm Water         Snorkeling Wetsuit

  • Quality and nice finish
  • Cool, stylish, lightweight and excellent for warm water dives and long snorkeling sessions
  • High level of finish on all details including neck custom closure and back zip puller
  • Smooth skin front panel making the shorty suitable for surfing and water skiing

SL4 Xenon Light » Underwater Kinetics

sl4-xenon-safety-yellow

SL4 Xenon

Most lights small enough to fit in your BC pocket lack a powerful beam. That’s why UK designed the SL4 Xenon, a secondary light with the extensive reach of a bright beam that is still small enough to take anywhere. The xenon bulb also offers improved color clarity.

 

  • 5.5 watt high pressure xenon filled lamp

  • Precision machined aluminum reflector gives bright, narrow beam for sighting distant objects

  • Fits neatly in BC pocket, ready to use

  • Works well as a photo spotting light or to illuminate gauges and tables

  • Molded rubber bezel cover reduces glare and protects light

  • Thumb or index finger activated rotary switch permits single hand operation

  • Tough, non-conductive ABS and polycarbonate plastic construction will not corrode, dent or freeze to skin in cold weather.

  • Rubber sleeve lanyard included

sl4-xenon-safety-blackUnderwater Kinetics designs and manufactures flashlights, waterproof cases, and other accessories for the utility, industrial, fire, first response, government, and dive and sport industries’ most demanding applications.

Source: SL4 Xenon Light » Underwater Kinetics

C4 eLED L2 Rechargeable » Underwater Kinetics

c4-l2

The C4 eLED L2 is a major new update to one of the world’s favorite dive lights. Boasting a significant increase in lumen output, and all the good stuff you loved about the classic original C4, you’ll love the L2 for any type of diving.

C4 eLED L2 is a versatile and durable primary dive light that produces a powerful, penetrating beam in a lightweight, compact package.

Boasting a huge increase in beam output from the L1 model, the C4 eLED (L2) produces 575 lumens on high, or 200 lumens on low with a maximum runtime of 19 hours.

Dual power setting provides flexibility to produce the correct amount of light for any diving situation.

Available with standard alkaline C-cell batteries at a maximum of 575 lumens, or upgrade to the rechargeable pack that produces 1000 lumens.

Please note that previous versions of this light (C4 eLED L1) are not compatible with the new NiMH Rechargeable Battery Pack & Charger. The new pack is specifically designed to only work with the new C4 eLED (L2) for maximum lumen output, and cannot be used with the old lights.

 

  • Alkaline performance – 575 lumens on high, 200 lumens on low

  • Run time : Alkaline :  5 hours on high, 200 lumens on low

  • Ergonomic pistol grip for a comfortable hold

  • Will not corrode – Tough composite body, HYDRALUM, and engineering polymer components will hold up for 20 years in seawater

  • Dual power – locking switch toggles between high and low power

  • Safety switch – light will not turn on accidentally underwater

  • Alkaline or rechargeable – Available for 4 C-cells, or a long-life rechargeable battery that will last 10 years with proper care

  • New bezel – tough rubber bezel protects against impact

  • High intensity twin LED module with proprietary convective cooling element

  • Unique optical design unites two high intensity LEDs into one beam with twice the intensity

  • Light from LED is close to sunlight in color and travels farther in water for maximum visibility

  • Proudly made in the USA

c4-l2-yellow

Source: C4 eLED L2 Rechargeable » Underwater Kinetics

How Do Oil Spills Affect Sea Turtles?

The head and upper body of a Kemp's Ridley sea turtle covered in oil.

A Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle covered in oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. (NOAA)

JUNE 16, 2016 — Sea turtles: These beloved marine reptiles have been swimming the seas for millions of years.

Yet, in less than a hundred years, threats from humans, such as accidentally catching turtles in fishing gear (“bycatch“), killing nesting turtles and their eggs, and destroying habitat, have caused sea turtle populations to plummet.

In fact, all six species of sea turtles found in U.S. waters are listed as threatened or endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

As we’ve seen in the Gulf of Mexico in recent years, oil spills represent yet another danger for these air-breathing reptiles that rely on clean water and clean beaches. But how exactly do oil spills affect sea turtles? And what do people do during and after an oil spill to look out for the well-being of sea turtles?

Living the Ocean Life

From the oil itself to the spill response and cleanup activities, a major oil spill has the potential to have serious negative effects on sea turtles. Part of the reason for this is because sea turtles migrate long distances and inhabit so many different parts of the ocean environment at different stages of their lives.

Graphic showing the life cycle of sea turtles in the ocean: egg laying; hatchling dispersal; oceanic feeding: small juveniles in sargassum; feeding on the continental shelf: large juveniles and adults, mating and breeding migration; and internesting near beach.

The life cycle of a sea turtle spans multiple habitats across the ocean, from sandy beaches to the open ocean. (NOAA)

For starters, sea turtles hatch (and females later return as adults to lay eggs) on sandy beaches. Then, they head to the vast open ocean where the tiny young turtles drift, hide from predators, and grow among floating islands of seaweed called sargassum. Finally, as larger juveniles and adults, they swim to the shallower waters of the continental shelf and near shore, where they spend the majority of the rest of their lives.

If a large offshore spill releases oil into the open ocean, currents and winds can carry oil across all of the habitats where sea turtles are found—and into the potential path of sea turtles of every age—as it makes its way to shore.

Another reason sea turtles can be particularly vulnerable to ocean oil spills is simply because they breathe air. Even though sea turtles can hold their breath on dives for extended periods of time, they usually come to the surface to breathe several times an hour. Because most oils float, sea turtles can surface into large oil slicks over and over again.

The situation can be even worse for very young sea turtles living among floating sargassum patches, as these small turtles almost never leave the top few feet of water, increasing their exposure to a floating oil slick. Furthermore, ocean currents and winds often bring oil to the same oceanic convergence zones that bring sargassum and young sea turtles together.

Turtle Meets Oil, Inside and Out

So, we know the many places sea turtles can run into an oil spill, but how exactly do they encounter the oil during a spill?

Graphic showing how spilled oil in the ocean can affect sea turtles at all stages of life and across ocean habitats: Oil on the shoreline can contaminate nesting females, nests, and hatchlings; larger turtles can inhale oil vapors, ingest oil in prey or sediment, and become coated in oil at the surface; winds and currents create ocean fronts, bringing together oil, dispersants, and sargassum communities, causing prolonged floating oil exposure; juvenile turtles ingest oil, inhale vapors, and become fatally mired and overheated; prey items may also be killed by becoming stuck in heavy oil or by dissolved oil components; and sargassum fouled by oil and dispersants can sink, leaving sargassum-dependent animals without food and cover and vulnerable to predators. Dead sea turtles may sink.

The potential impacts of an oil spill on sea turtles are many and varied. For example, some impacts can result from sea turtles inhaling and ingesting oil, becoming covered in oil to the point of being unable to swim, or losing important habitat or food that is killed or contaminated by oil. (NOAA) Click to view larger.

It likely starts when they raise their heads above the water’s surface to breathe. When sea turtles surface in a slick, they can inhale oil and its vapors into their lungs; gulp oil into their mouths, down their throats, and into their digestive tracts while feeding; and become coated in oil, to the point of becoming entirely mired and unable to swim. Similarly, sea turtles may swim through oil drifting in the water column or disturb it in the sediments on the ocean bottom.

Female sea turtles that ingest oil can even pass oil compounds on to their developing young, and once laid, the eggs can absorb oil components in the sand through the eggshell, potentially damaging the baby turtle developing inside. Nesting turtles and their hatchlings are also likely to crawl into oil on contaminated beaches.

Not the Picture of Health

Graphic showing how oil spill cleanup and response activities can negatively affect sea turtles: Cleaning oil from surface and subsurface shores with large machines deters nesting; booms and other barriers prevent females from nesting; response vessels can strike and kill sea turtles and relocation trawlers can inadvertently drown them; application of dispersants may have effects on sea turtles; and skimming and burning heavy oil may kill some sea turtles, while also exposing others to smoke inhalation.

Oil spill cleanup and response activities can negatively affect sea turtles as well. For example, oil containment booms along beaches can prevent nesting females from reaching the shores to lay their eggs. (NOAA)

Once sea turtles encounter oil, what are the impacts of that exposure?

Inhaling and swallowing oil generally result in negative health effects for animals, as shown in dolphins and other wildlife, hindering their overall health, growth, and survival.

Lining the inside of sea turtles’ throats are pointy spines called esophageal papillae, which normally act to keep swallowed food inside while allowing water to be expelled. Unfortunately, these projections also seem to trap thick oil in sea turtles’ throats, and evidence of oil has been detected in the feces of oiled turtles taken into wildlife rehabilitation centers.

Oil can irritate sensitive mucus membranes around the eyes, mouth, lungs, and digestive tract of sea turtles, and toxic oil compounds known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) can be absorbed into vital organ tissues such as the lungs and liver. Because sea turtles can hold their breath for long periods, inhaled oil has a greater chance of being absorbed into their bodies. Oil compounds that get passed from mother turtles to their young can interfere with development and threaten the survival of sea turtles still developing in the eggs.

Once inside their systems, oil can impede breathing and heart function in sea turtles, which can make diving, feeding, migrating, mating, and escaping predators more difficult. Being heavily covered in oil likewise impedes sea turtles’ abilities to undertake these activities, which puts them at risk of exhaustion and dehydration. In addition, dark oil under a hot summer sun can heat up turtles to dangerous temperatures, further jeopardizing their health and even killing them. In fact, sea turtles heavily coated in oil are not likely to survive without medical attention from humans.

Another, less direct way oil spills can affect the health of sea turtles is by killing or contaminating what they eat, which, depending on the species, can range from fish and crabs to jellyfish to seagrass and algae. In addition, if oil kills the sargassum where young sea turtles live, they lose their shelter and source of food and are forced to find suitable habitat elsewhere, which makes them more vulnerable to predators and uses more energy.

Spill response and cleanup operations also can harm sea turtles unintentionally. Turtles can be killed after being struck by response vessels or as a result of oil burning and skimming activities. Extra lighting and activity on beaches can disrupt nesting and hatchling turtles, as well as incubating eggs.

Help Is on the Way

A person holding a small clean Kemp's Ridley sea turtle over a blue bin.

A Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle ready to be returned to the wild after being cleaned and rehabilitated during an oil spill. (NOAA)

The harm that oil spills can cause to sea turtles is significant, and estimating the full suite of impacts to these species is a long and complicated process. There are some actions that have been taken to protect these vulnerable marine reptiles during oil spills.

These include activities such as:

  • Performing rescue operations by boat, which involve scooping turtles out of oil or water using dip-nets and assessing their health.

  • Taking rescued turtles to wildlife rehabilitation centers to be cleaned and cared for.

  • Monitoring beaches and coastlines for injured (and sometimes dead) turtles.

  • Monitoring nesting beaches to safeguard incubating nests.

  • Conducting aerial surveys to assess abundance of adults and large juvenile turtles potentially in the footprint of an oil spill.

Finally, the government agencies acting as stewards on behalf of sea turtles, as well as other wildlife and habitats, will undertake a scientific evaluation of an oil spill’s environmental impacts and identify restoration projects that make up for any impacts.

As an example, read about the impacts to sea turtles from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, details about how they were harmed, and the proposed restoration path forward.

Source: How Do Oil Spills Affect Sea Turtles? | response.restoration.noaa.gov

Posted Monday, 22 August 2016 by Culebra Snorkeling and Dive Center in Culebra Posts & Reviews

Seafood Safety After an Oil Spill

A NOAA seafood tester examines shrimp as part of a sensory test.

Steve Wilson, chief quality officer for NOAA’s Seafood Inspection Program, demonstrates sensory analysis of a sample of shrimp on July 8, 2010, at NOAA’s National Seafood Inspection Laboratory in Pascagoula, Miss. (NOAA)

When oil spills into coastal waters, both federal and state governments have established protocols to test and monitor seafood safety. When spill response managers determine that seafood may be affected, the next step is to assess whether seafood is tainted or contaminated to levels that could pose a risk to human health through consumption.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there are two ways that oil can cause seafood to be unfit for consumption.

The first is through the presence of certain levels of chemicals known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), some of which are carcinogenic. (Oil is composed of many chemicals. However, it is the carcinogenic, or potentially cancer-causing, PAHs which are of greatest concern because they can be harmful if consumed in sufficient amounts over a prolonged period of time.)

The second way seafood would be considered unfit for consumption is if it smells or tastes like a petroleum product. This is known as the presence of “taint.” Under U.S. law, a product tainted with petroleum is considered “adulterated” and is not permitted to be sold as food. Petroleum “taint” in and of itself is not necessarily harmful and may be present even when PAHs are below harmful levels; however, it should not be present at all.

NOAA, in collaboration with FDA and state health agencies, may conduct a combination of both sensory analysis and chemical analysis of tissue to determine if seafood is safe following a spill. The NOAA Seafood Inspection Program is often called upon to perform screening and training tasks following major oil spills. Program experts perform sensory analysis to detect oil taint. Additionally, NOAA’s science centers may conduct chemical analysis for petroleum contaminants.

Related Publications

The following OR&R publications provide information about monitoring seafood for contamination after an oil spill:

Managing Seafood Safety after an Oil Spill [PDF, 1.0 MB]: This 2002 guide was written to help seafood managers and other spill responders determine appropriate seafood management actions in response to a spill.

Guidance on Sensory Testing and Monitoring of Seafood for Presence of Petroleum Taint Following an Oil Spill [PDF, 1.7 MB]: This 2001 guidance document describes how to conduct sensory testing on seafood suspected of petroleum taint.

Order a copy: Contact us by email or phone (206.526.6400) to request a printed copy of these publications.

Seafood Safety During the Deepwater Horizon/BP Oil Spill

During the Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill in 2010, NOAA Fisheries Service worked closely with the FDA, the Environmental Protection Agency, and state health and fisheries agencies in the Gulf of Mexico region to establish a protocol for use in re-opening oil-impacted areas closed to seafood harvesting. You can read more about the FDA’s testing protocol to re-open harvest waters that were closed in response to the Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill.

More Information about Seafood Safety

Keeping Seafood Safe: Read about NOAA’s involvement to keep seafood safe during the Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill, including closing and monitoring harvest areas, collecting seafood samples, and training Gulf state employees as sensory screeners.

Passing the “Sniff Test”: In Assessing Gulf Coast Seafood, the Nose Knows: The chief quality officer for NOAA’s Seafood Inspection Program provides a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to ensure that the seafood that reaches your local market or seafood counter is safe to eat.

Sensory Analysis of Seafood Samples in Pascagoula, Miss. [Video]: Learn more as Rear Adm. Paul Zukunft, the Deepwater Horizon response FOSC tours NOAA’s seafood sample testing facility in Pascagoula, Miss. on Oct. 8, 2010.

Improving Seafood Safety Management After an Oil Spill [PDF, 1.6 MB]: This paper, published at the 2003 International Oil Spill Conference, aims to ease and expedite the decision-making process of seafood safety managers in the wake of an oil spill.

Source: Seafood Safety After an Oil Spill | response.restoration.noaa.gov

15th Month in a Row to Break a Monthly Heat Record

July 2016 was 1.57 degrees F above the 20th-century average, breaking last year’s record for the warmest July on record by 0.11 degrees F, according to scientists from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information.

This was the 15th month in a row to break a monthly heat record, surpassing July 2015 as the warmest month ever on record. Records date back 137 years to 1880.

For the year to date, the average global temperature was 1.85 degrees F above the 20th-century average. This was the highest temperature for this period, breaking the previous record set in 2015 by 0.34 degrees F.

Map: Some notable climate events around the world in July 2016
Map: Some notable climate events around the world in July 2016
(NOAA NCEI)

Some more notable findings around the world include:

  • The globally averaged sea surface temperature was record high for July and the year to date (January–July).

  • The globally averaged land surface temperature tied with 1998 as record high for July and record high for the year to date.

  • Near-record-warm continents: Asia had its second warmest July; Oceania its fourth, North America its fifth, and Africa and Europe their seventh.

  • The average Arctic sea ice extent for July was 16.9 percent below the 1981–2010 average. This was the third smallest July extent since records began in 1979.

  • The average Antarctic sea ice extent for July was 0.2 percent above the 1981–2010 average, marking the smallest July Antarctic sea ice extent since 2011 and the 19th smallest on record.

A 5 star review of Culebra Snorkeling and Dive Center by Tara-Rose S.

Amazing experience! My husband and I are here on our honeymoon and were so excited to go snorkeling. The gear was only $15 for an entire day. Everything was explained to us and he showed us pictures of which beaches to go to and what times to see the most wildlife. This island is beautiful! Definitely very helpful and super nice snorkel shop! We will 100% rent from here again next time we’re visiting!

 

yelp-review-logo

http://www.yelp.com/biz/culebra-snorkeling-and-dive-center-culebra?hrid=_0g1WC9CjlwDIV-UK3Wa0A&utm_source=ashare&ref=yelp-android

 

Posted Tuesday, 9 August 2016 by Culebra Snorkeling and Dive Center in Culebra Posts & Reviews

Great Camera Rental Starting at $40.00 / day

images

Enter a caption

Rental Special

$40.00 /day Nova HD w/3 day Snorkel Gear Rental

                                                               or

$45.00 /day Nova HD w/2 day Snorkel Gear Reatalintova-camera-17INT_NovaHD_1

Product Description

Key features include:

  • Video Camera Resolution: 1080p@30fps, 720p@60fps
  • Photo Resolution:12MP, 8MP, 5MP and 3MP
  • Rugged, durable, and waterproof to 330 feet; HD video resolution to 1080P@30fps and photo resolution to 12MP
  • Easy to use Intova operating system
  • 2.4G 2-way water resistant remote control lets users snap photos and start and stop video recording remotely. *IMPORTANT NOTE: Wireless transmission will not work underwater.  Wireless remote is for surface use only.
  • Camera floats
  • 1.5″ LCD screen acts as both a viewfinder and playback monitor; rechargeable Li-ion battery with 3-hour battery life with LCD off and 2-hours with LCD on
  • 140-degree, point-of-view wide-angle lens; 4x digital zoom
  • Uses same filters and lenses as EDGE X and CONNEX
  • Rechargeable Li-ion battery 1450mAh
  • Micro USB charger/download port
  • Diving Mode (electronic red filter)
  • Motion Detection Mode
  • Time Lapse mode
  • Self-capture mode
  • Burst Mode: 3, 5, 10 photos
  • Video Rotation Mode (rotate video 180° when camera is mounted upside down)
  • Manual White Balance
  • Picture in Video (take photo at same time as video recording by pressing OK button)
  • Video recording LED indicator- blinking blue light
  • Audible record alert
  • Camera floats
  • High Definition TV output
  • Video codec: H.264
  • Video format: MP4 / Photo format: JPEG
  • Supports Micro SD Card up to 32GB with class 10 required for HD video recording (not included)

The Makings of a Great Emergency Action Plan

THE MAKINGS OF A GREAT EMERGENCY ACTION PLAN

Anyone who has done a Rescue Diver course will remember the dreaded Emergency Action Plan.  Well guess what?  Divemaster trainees get to make another one as part of the course.  Basically, it is a page in which you condense a bunch of information so that in the case of any dive injury or problem, everyone knows the right steps to take and the right numbers to call.

For any dive site or dive operation, the information contained may vary, and they take into account that the person reading the EAP may have little first aid knowledge.   The real difficulty lies in cramming so much information into one little sheet.

The Emergency Action Plan for this island needs to also include information on every dive shop and their boats, what radio channel they use and what types of emergency oxygen they stock. I guess this information would come in handy if we needed a defibrillator and one was not available in shop, or we needed more oxygen than we had on hand.

This part of the dive master trainee experience involved going to fifteen different dive shops and asking about their shop information.  For me, as an introvert, it was extraordinarily awkward.  There is nothing worse than talking to random people, really. Luckily for me, everyone at the dive shops was very welcoming and nice.

As there is more than one clinic on the island and the hospital and dive shop clinics all seem to be rather small I also had to list all of the major places you could take a victim, including both re-compression chambers.  Then I included a step by step of what you would do in the event of a dive emergency, what to say to the clinic you would call and what information to write down in order to give to the clinic.

 

EAPFront

On the back side is first-aid information for every major type of dive injury, the main line of treatment for everything from jellyfish stings to heart attack, and more.

EAP

Basically, someone who couldn’t remember first-aid class very clearly could scan this document and be able to administer first-aid to a victim.

Obviously, you would change the plan according to the type of diving and where you were. You could even leave out the first aid side if it was an Emergency Action Plan for you and a buddy doing a shore dive together, assuming you and your buddy were both well versed in dive first aid.

In Canada, I would have just done a plan for a particular dive site, instead of a dive operation, because the dive sites can be so far apart.

I honestly believe every dive, even if it is just a shore dive with a friend should have some form of an Emergency Plan, at a minimum the essential phone numbers and an idea as to where the nearest hospital or fastest way to get an ambulance.

Amazingly enough, I found out that an ambulance may not be the fastest mode of transportation on such a small island and that a fast boat or a cab driver or private vehicle may be the fastest way to transport a patient.  I also learned about what medical help is available on the island, and there were quite a few options.

So that was it, an hour long walk, a few hours in Word and another tick off the list of things to do.

Source: The Makings of a Great Emergency Action Plan

Posted Saturday, 28 May 2016 by Culebra Snorkeling and Dive Center in Culebra Posts & Reviews

Sperm Whales Found Dead In Germany, Stomachs FULL Of Plastic And Car Parts

The whales’ deaths are symbolic of humanity’s shocking disregard for marine life.

Source: Sperm Whales Found Dead In Germany, Stomachs FULL Of Plastic And Car Parts

Posted Monday, 25 April 2016 by Culebra Snorkeling and Dive Center in Culebra Posts & Reviews

How Beach Cleanups Help Keep Microplastics out of the Garbage Patches 

 Lots of tiny pieces of plastic covering rocks.
Basket full of faded, old plastic bottles on a beach.
Cleaning up a few plastic bottles on a beach can make a big difference when it comes to keeping microplastics from entering the ocean. (NOAA)  Microplastics, tiny bits of plastic measuring 5 millimeters or less, are often the result of larger pieces of plastic breaking down on land before making it into the ocean. They can also come from cosmetics and fleece clothing. (NOAA)

JUNE 12, 2015 — These days plastic seems to be everywhere; unfortunately, that includes many parts of the ocean, from the garbage patches to Arctic sea ice.With this pollution increasingly in the form of tiny plastic bits, picking up a few bottles left on the beach can feel far removed from the massive problem of miniscule plastics floating out at sea.However, these two issues are more closely connected than you may think.But how do we get from a large plastic water bottle, blown out of an overfilled trash can on a beach, to innumerable plastic pieces no bigger than a sesame seed—and known as microplastics—suspended a few inches below the ocean surface thousands of miles from land?The answer starts with the sun and an understanding of how plastic deteriorates in the environment.

The Science of Creating Microplastics

Plastic starts breaking down, or degrading, when exposed to light and high temperatures from the sun. Ultraviolet B radiation (UVB), the same part of the light spectrum that can cause sunburns and skin cancer, starts this process for plastics.

This process, known as photo-oxidation, is a chemical reaction that uses oxygen to break the links in the molecular chains that make up plastic. It also happens much faster on land than in the comparatively cool waters of the ocean.

For example, a hot day at the beach can heat the sandy surface—and plastic trash sitting on it—up to 104 degrees Fahrenheit. The ocean, on the other hand, gets darker and colder the deeper you go, and the average temperatures at its surface in July can range from 45 degrees Fahrenheit near Adak Island, Alaska, to 89 degrees in Cannon Bay, Florida.

Back on that sunny, warm beach, a plastic water bottle starts to show the effects of photo-oxidation. Its surface becomes brittle and tiny cracks start forming. Those larger shards of plastic break apart into smaller and smaller pieces, but they keep roughly the same molecular structure, locked into hydrogen and carbon chains. A brisk wind or child playing on the beach may cause this brittle outer layer of plastic to crumble. The tide washes these now tiny plastics into the ocean.

Once in the ocean, the process of degrading slows down for the remains of this plastic bottle. It can sink below the water surface, where less light and heat penetrate and less oxygen is available. In addition, plastics can quickly become covered in a thin film of marine life, which further blocks light from reaching the plastic and breaking it down.

An Incredible Journey

In general, plastic breaks down much, much more slowly in the ocean than on land. That means plastic objects that reach the ocean either directly from a boat (say trash or nets from a fishing vessel) or washed into the sea before much degradation has happened are much less likely to break into smaller pieces that become microplastics. This also applies to plastics that sink below the ocean surface into the water column or seafloor.

Instead, plastic that has spent time heating up and breaking down on land is most likely to produce the microplastics eventually accumulating in ocean gyres or garbage patches, a conclusion supported by the research of North Carolina State University professor Anthony Andrady and others.

Of course, microplastics in the form of “microbeads” in face wash and other cosmetics or microfibers in fleece clothing also can reach the ocean by slipping through waste water treatment systems.

However, regularly patrolling your favorite beach or waterway and cleaning up any plastic or other marine debris can go a long way to keeping millions of tiny microplastics—some so tiny they can only be seen with a microscope—from reaching the garbage patches and other areas of the ocean.

The great thing is anyone can do this and you don’t have to wait for the International Coastal Cleanup each September to get started.Find more tips and resources to help you on your way:

Source: How Beach Cleanups Help Keep Microplastics out of the Garbage Patches | response.restoration.noaa.gov

Marine Debris

marine debrisMarine Debris

Marine debris is everyone’s problem. It is a global problem affecting everything from the environment to the economy; from fishing and navigation to human health and safety; from the tiniest coral polyps to giant blue whales. Marine debris comes in many forms, from a cigarette butt tossed on the beach to a 4,000-pound tangle of derelict fishing nets caught on a coral reef.

Since 2005, the NOAA Marine Debris Program, one of three divisions within the Office of Response and Restoration, serves as a centralized program within NOAA, coordinating, strengthening, and promoting marine debris activities within the agency and among its partners and the public.

Importance

Marine debris has many detrimental impacts on ecosystems, such as habitat degradation, entanglement, ingestion, and transportation of non-native species. Debris can even affect human health and navigation safety.

Research is beginning to reveal the scope of the issue, and this knowledge, along with new technologies, can lead to more effective solutions to the problem. Efforts to reduce and prevent marine debris decrease not only the quantities but also the impacts of debris, and over time, create an overall change in the behaviors that lead to debris.

Through efforts in these areas as well as by working with partners across the U.S. and around the world, together everyone can make a difference in solving the problem of marine debris.

Source: Marine Debris

For the First Time in Decades, Scientists Examine How Oil Spills Might Affect Baleen Whales

Several days of unseasonably warm weather in late September had Gary Shigenaka starting to wonder how much longer he and his colleagues would be welcome at Ohmsett, a national oil spill research facility in New Jersey.

March 16, 2016 Leave a comment

A North Atlantic right whale's mouth is visible at the ocean surface.

NOAA scientists and partners recently collaborated to examine how oil and dispersants might affect the function of baleen in humpback, bowhead, and right whales (pictured). Hundreds of baleen plates hang from these whales’ top jaws and allow them to filter food from the water. (Credit: Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Permit 15488)

They were working with whale baleen, and although the gum tissue anchoring their baleen samples had been preserved with formalin, the balmy fall weather was taking a toll. As a result, things were starting to smell a little rank.

Fortunately, cooler weather rounded out that first week of experiments, and the group, of course, was invited back again. Over the course of three week-long trials in People attaching baleen plates in a clamp to the moving bridge over a saltwater test tank at Ohmsett.September, December, and January, they were trying to tease out the potential impacts of oil and dispersants on whale baleen.

As a marine biologist with NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration, Shigenaka’s job is to consider how oil spills might threaten marine life and advise the U.S. Coast Guard on this issue during a spill response.

But the last time scientists had examined how oil might affect whale baleen was in a handful of studies back in the 1980s. This research took place before the 1989 Exxon Valdez and 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spills and predated numerous advances in scientific technique, technology, and understanding.

Thanks to a recent opportunity provided by the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, which runs the Ohmsett facility, Shigenaka and a team of scientists, engineers, and oil spill experts have been able to revisit this question in the facility’s 2.6 million gallon saltwater tank.

The diverse team that made this study possible hails not just from NOAA but also Alaska’s North Slope Borough Department of Wildlife Management (Dr. Todd Sformo), Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (Dr. Michael Moore and Tom Lanagan), Hampden-Sydney College (Dr. Alexander Werth), and Oil Spill Response Limited (Paul Schuler). In addition, NOAA’s Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program provided substantial support for the project, including funding and regulatory expertise, and was coordinated by Dr. Teri Rowles.

Getting a Mouthful

To understand why this group is focused on baleen and how an oil spill might affect this particular part of a whale, you first need to understand what baleen is and how a whale uses it. Similar to fingernails and hooves, baleen is composed of the protein keratin, along with a few calcium salts, giving it a tough but pliable character.

A hand holds a ruler next to oiled baleen hanging from a clamp next to a man.

Made of the flexible substance keratin, baleen plates have tangles of “fringe hair” that act as nets to strain marine life from mouthfuls of ocean water. This study examined how oil and dispersants might affect the performance of baleen. (NOAA)

Twelve species of whales, including humpback and bowhead, have hundreds of long plates of baleen hanging from the top jaw, lined up like the teeth on a comb, which they use to filter feed. A whale’s tongue rubs against its baleen plates, fraying their inner edges and creating tangles of “fringe hair” that act like nets to catch tiny sea creatures as the whale strains massive gulps of ocean water back out through the baleen plates.

Baleen does vary somewhat between species of whales. Some might have longer or shorter baleen plates, for example, depending on what the whale eats. Bowhead whales, which are Arctic plankton-eaters, can have plates up to 13 feet long.

This study was, at least in part, inspired by scientists wondering what would happen to a bowhead whale if a mouthful of water brought not just lunch but also crude oil from an ill-fated tanker traversing its Arctic waters.

Would oil pass through a whale’s hundreds of baleen plates and coat their mats of fringe hairs? Would that oil make it more difficult for the whale to push huge volumes of water through the oily baleen, causing the whale to use more energy as it tried? Does that result change whether the oil is freshly spilled, or weathered with age, or dispersed with chemicals? Would dispersant make it easier for oil to reach a whale’s gut?

Using more energy to get food would mean the whales then would need to eat even more food to make up for the energy difference, creating a tiring cycle that could tax these gargantuan marine mammals.

Testing this hypothesis has been the objective of Shigenaka’s team. While it might sound simple, almost nothing about the project has been straightforward.

Challenges as Big as a Whale

One of the first challenges was tackled by the engineers at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. They were tasked with turning the mechanical features of Ohmsett’s giant saltwater tank into, essentially, a baleen whale’s mouth.

Woods Hole fabricated a special clamp and then worked with the Ohmsett engineering staff to attach it to a corresponding mount on the mechanical bridges that move back and forth over the giant tank. The clamp gripped the sections of baleen and allowed them to be held at different angles as they moved through the water. In addition, this custom clamp had a load cell, which was connected to a computer on the bridge. As the bridge moved the clamp and baleen at different speeds and angles through the water, the team could measure change in drag on the baleen via the load cell.

With the mechanical portion set up, the Ohmsett staff released oil into the test tank on the surface of the water, and the team watched expectantly how the bridges moved the baleen through the thin oil slick. It turned out to be a pretty inefficient way to get oil on baleen. “How might a whale deal with oil on the surface of the water?” asked Shigenaka. “If it’s feeding, it might scoop up a mouthful of water and oil and run it through the baleen.” But how could they simulate that experience?

They tried using paintbrushes to apply crude oil to the baleen, but that seemed to alter the character of the baleen too much, matting down the fringe hairs. After discussions with the Ohmsett engineering staff, the research team finally settled on dipping the baleen into a pool of floating oil that was contained by a floating ring. This set-up allowed a relatively heavy amount of oil to contact baleen in the water and would help the scientists calibrate their expectations about potential impacts.

Testing the Waters

Four black plumes of dispersed oil are released underwater onto long plates of baleen moving behind the applicator.

After mixing chemical dispersant with oil, the research team released plumes of it underwater in Ohmsett’s test tank as baleen samples moved through the water behind the applicator. Researchers also tested the effects of dispersant alone on baleen function. (NOAA)

In all, Shigenaka and his teammates ran 127 different trials across this experiment. They measured the drag values for baleen in a variety of combinations: through saltwater alone, with fresh oil, with weathered oil, with dispersed oil (pre-mixed and released underwater through a custom array designed and built by Ohmsett staff), and with chemical dispersant alone. They tested during temperate weather as well as lower temperature conditions, which clearly thickened the consistency of the oil. They conducted the tests using baleen from three different species of whales: bowhead, humpback, and right whale.

Following all the required regulations and with the proper permits, the bowhead baleen was donated by subsistence whalers from Barrow, Alaska. The baleen from other species came from whales that had stranded on beaches from locations outside of Alaska.

In addition to testing the potential changes in drag on the baleen, the team of researchers used an electric razor to shave off baleen fringe hairs as samples for chemical analysis to determine whether the oil or dispersant had any effects on baleen at the molecular level. They also determined how much oil, dispersed oil, and dispersant were retained on the baleen fringe hairs after the trials.

At this point, the team is analyzing the data from the experimental trials and plans to submit the results for publication in a scientific journal. NOAA is also beginning to create a guidance document on oil and cetaceans (whales and dolphins), which will incorporate the conclusions of this research.

While the scientific community has learned a lot about the apparent effects of oil on dolphins in the wake of the 2010Deepwater Horizon oil spill, there is very little information on large whales. The body of research on oil’s effects on baleen from the 1980s concluded that there were few and transient effects, but whether that conclusion holds up today remains to be seen.

“This is another piece of the puzzle,” said Shigenaka. “If we can distill response-relevant guidance that helps to mediate spill impacts to whales, then we will have been successful.”

Work was conducted under NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service Permits 17350 and 18786.

NOAA Scientist Helps Make Mapping Vital Seagrass Habitat Easier and More Accurate 

Shoal grass seagrass on a sandy ocean floor.

Seagrass beds serve as important habitat for a variety of marine life, and understanding their growth patterns better can help fisheries management and restoration efforts. (NOAA)

MARCH 3, 2016 — Amy Uhrin was sensing a challenge ahead of her.

As a NOAA scientist working on her PhD, she was studying the way seagrasses grow in different patterns along the coast, and she knew that these underwater plants don’t always create lush, unbroken lawns beneath the water’s surface.

Where she was working, off the North Carolina coast near the Outer Banks, things like the churning motion of waves and the speed of tides can cause seagrass beds to grow in patchy formations.

Clusters of bigger patches of seagrass here, some clusters of smaller patches over there. Round patches here, elongated patches over there.

Uhrin wanted to be able to look at aerial images showing large swaths of seagrass habitat and measure how much was actually seagrass, rather than bare sand on the bottom of the estuary. Unfortunately, traditional methods for doing this were tedious and tended to produce rather rough estimates. These involved viewing high-resolution aerial photographs, taken from fixed-wing planes, on a computer monitor and having a person digitally draw lines around the approximate edges of seagrass beds.

While that can be fairly accurate for continuous seagrass beds, it becomes more problematic for areas with lots of small patches of seagrass included inside a single boundary. For the patchy seagrass beds Uhrin was interested in, these visual methods tended to overestimate the actual area of seagrass by 70% to more than 1,500%. There had to be a better way.

Seeing the Light

Patches of seagrass beds of different sizes visible from the air.

Due to local environmental conditions, some coastal areas are more likely to produce patchy patterns in seagrass, rather than large beds with continuous cover. (NOAA)

At the time, Uhrin was taking a class on remote sensing technology, which uses airborne—or, in the case of satellites, space-borne—sensors to gather information about the Earth’s surface (includinginformation about oil spills). She knew that the imagery gathered from satellites (i.e. Landsat) is usually not at a fine enough resolution to view the details of the seagrass beds she was studying. Each pixel on Landsat images is 30 meters by 30 meters, while the aerial photography gathered from low-flying planes often delivered resolution of less than a meter (a little over three feet).

Uhrin wondered if she could apply to the aerial photographs some of the semi-automated classification tools from imagery visualization and analysis programs which are typically used with satellite imagery. She decided to give it a try.

First, she obtained aerial photographs taken of six sites in the shallow coastal waters of North Carolina’s Albemarle-Pamlico Estuary System. Using a GIS program, she drew boundaries (called “polygons”) around groups of seagrass patches to the best of her ability but in the usual fashion, which includes a lot of unvegetated seabed interspersed among seagrass patches.

Six aerial photographs of seagrass habitat off the North Carolina coast, with yellow boundary lines drawn around general areas of seagrass habitat.

Aerial photographs show varying patterns of seagrass growth at six study sites off the North Carolina coast. The yellow line shows the digitally drawn boundaries around seagrass and how much of that area is unvegetated for patchy seagrass habitat. (North Carolina Department of Transportation)

Next, Uhrin isolated those polygons of seagrass beds and deleted everything else in each image except the polygon. This created a smaller, easier-to-scan area for the imagery visualization program to analyze. Then, she “trained” the program to recognize what was seagrass vs. sand, based on spectral information available in the aerial photographs.

Though limited compared to what is available from satellite sensors, aerial photographs contain red, blue, and green wavelengths of light in the visible spectrum. Because plants absorb red and blue light and reflect green light (giving them their characteristic green appearance), Uhrin could train the computer program to classify as seagrass the patches where green light was reflected.

Classify in the Sky

Amy Uhrin stands in shallow water documenting data about seagrass inside a square frame of PVC pipe.

NOAA scientist Amy Uhrin found a more accurate and efficient approach to measuring how much area was actually seagrass, rather than bare sand, in aerial images of coastal North Carolina. (NOAA)

To Uhrin’s excitement, the technique worked well, allowing her to accurately identify and map smaller patches of seagrass and export those maps to another computer program where she could precisely measure the distance between patches and determine the size, number, and orientation of seagrass patches in a given area.

“This now allows you to calculate how much of the polygon is actually seagrass vegetation,” said Uhrin, “which is good for fisheries management.”

The young of many commercially important species, such as blue crabs, clams, and flounder, live in seagrass beds and actively use the plants. Young scallops, for example, cling to the blades of seagrass before sliding off and burrowing into the sediment as adults.

In addition, being able to better characterize the patterns of seagrass habitat could come in handy during coastal restoration planning and assessment. Due to local environmental conditions, some areas are more likely to produce patchy patterns in seagrass. As a result, efforts to restore seagrass habitat should aim for restoring not just cover but also the original spatial arrangement of the beds.

And, as Uhrin noted, having this information can “help address seagrass resilience in future climate change scenarios and altered hurricane regimes, as patchy seagrass areas are known to be more susceptible to storms than continuous meadows.”

The results of this study, which was done in concert with a colleague at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, have been published in the journal Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science.

Source: NOAA Scientist Helps Make Mapping Vital Seagrass Habitat Easier and More Accurate | response.restoration.noaa.gov

Sharks and Rays Without Borders

Sharks and Rays Without Borders

Although several countries have protections for sharks and rays in place, many species travel great distances, often crossing national boundaries. Their migratory routes are determined by nature, not by the borders we’ve drawn. International cooperation is vital to ensuring the survival of these exceptionally vulnerable migratory species. The Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) – a global wildlife treaty with 120 Parties — is uniquely suited to facilitate such action.

TAKE ACTION

In November 2014 in Quito, Ecuador, CMS Parties (member countries) from all over the world debated and decided on an unprecedented number of proposals that could greatly improve the outlook for 21 species of imperiled sharks and rays. Project AWARE was there to represent the voice of the dive community and to work with partner NGOs to urge the CMS Parties to commit to regional protections for the proposed shark and ray species. Such actions bring responsibilities for member countries to work nationally and regionally to safeguard listed species and ensure the health of their habitats throughout migratory pathways.

 Project AWARE CMS campaign #SharksWithoutBorders

Send a letter – Our letter campaign direct to delegates is now closed. Thank you to everyone involved. 28,804 letters were delivered to decision-makers urging them to support the shark and ray proposals.

Thunderclap – On 4th November, 632 people with a social media reach of almost 550k sent a loud unified message #SharksWithoutBorders.

Your support made a difference for:

  • All five sawfishes, nine devil rays, and the reef manta – proposed for CMS Appendix I & II. Appendix I is reserved for migratory species that are threatened with extinction and brings an obligation for CMS Parties to strictly protect these animals, restore their habitats, and mitigate obstacles to migration.

  • Two species of hammerheads, all three threshers, and the silky shark – proposed for CMS Appendix II, which encourages regional cooperative initiatives to conserve shared populations.

  • Threats to their migration routes and habitat, including marine debris. Our trash underwater harms marine animals, entangles sharks and rays, and damages critical marine environments. Much like migratory animals, marine debris crosses political boundaries, moving from one territorial sea to the open ocean and ending up in another nation’s waters. As a multilateral environmental agreement, CMS can also address this issue, and thereby further improve the outlook for marine species.

Fact sheets on the newly listed species and how the listings might help them can be found here.

22 Shark and Ray Species Added to Scope of Global Agreement

22 Shark and Ray Species Added to Scope of Global Agreement

Signatories to the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for Sharks have unanimously agreed to add twenty-two species of sharks and rays to the MoU scope, and to accept the applications of six conservation groups as Cooperating Partners in fulfilling MoU objectives. Conservationists are, in turn, calling on countries to take concrete national and international actions to fulfill new commitments to the imperiled species.

Conserving Migratory Sharks & Rays: Priorities for Action Governments gathering to discuss the next steps in implementing the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for Sharks have an important opportunity to make real progress in addressing the global plight of sharks and rays, particularly the 29 species currently listed on the CMS Appendices. Beyond adding species and working groups to the CMS MoU scope of work, there are multiple avenues for immediate, concrete action that can go a long way toward fulfilling CMS obligations for listed species, as well as broader commitments to cooperate toward better protection for these vulnerable animals. Our organizations welcomed the 2010 CMS MoU for the seven shark species listed between 1999 and 2008, participated in development of the 2012 Conservation Plan to promote MoU objectives, and celebrated the historic listing of 21 additional species (15 rays on Appendix I & II and six sharks on Appendix II) in 2014. Through the CMS Sharks MoU and Conservation Plan, signatories have agreed, inter alia, to: § facilitate a better understanding of shark populations and fisheries § set science-based catch limits in an effort to ensure sustainable fishing § prevent “finning” (slicing off a shark’s fins and discarding the body at sea) § cooperate toward shark conservation through international bodies, and § protect critical shark habitats. Shark species covered by the CMS Sharks MoU, after listings from 1999 to 2008: § Whale shark (Rhincodon typus) § White shark (Carcharodon carcharias) § Basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus) § Porbeagle (Lamna nasus) § Spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias) § Shortfin mako (Isurus oxyrinchus) § Longfin mako (Isurus paucus) Shark & ray species listed in 2011 & 2014, not yet covered by the Sharks MoU: § All five species of sawfish (Family Pristidae) § All nine species of devil rays (Mobula spp.) § Both manta rays (Manta spp.) § All three thresher sharks (Alopias spp.) § Great hammerhead (Sphyrna mokarran) § Scalloped hammerhead (Sphyrna lewini) § Silky shark (Carcharhinus falciformis) CMS w 2NDMEETING OF SIGNATORIES TO THE SHARKS MOU w FEBRUARY 2016 As the first intergovernmental treaty dedicated to global shark conservation, the CMS MoU has bolstered efforts to safeguard these vulnerable species, through both awareness and action. Listings on the Appendices, in particular, have been a major factor in numerous domestic protections while also serving to highlight at-risk species for other international fora. Nearly four years after adoption of the Conservation Plan, however, concrete actions to fulfill MoU goals remain insufficient. For example, the following are regrettable: § The lack of species-specific regional plans for listed shark species, even the first to be listed (whale sharks) § The absence of Regional Fishery Management Organization (RFMO) catch limits for shortfin mako sharks § The repeated defeat of US and EU proposals to cap shortfin mako landings through ICCAT1 § Exceptions to the protections for manta and devil ray (mobulids) adopted last year by the IATTC2 § Continued fishing and lack of national protections for mobulid rays, particularly Mobula species § Weak national and international finning bans that rely on complicated fin-to-body ratios for enforcement § Little cooperation among countries aiming to recover shared porbeagle and spiny dogfish populations § The small proportion of Signatories submitting national reports. In addition to expanding the MoU’s scope to cover all shark and ray species listed on the CMS Appendices (adding the 22 species listed in 2011 and 2014 to MoU Annex I), and in line with appropriate amendments to the Conservation Plan (MoU Annex 3), associated work program, priorities and strategy, we urge CMS Parties and Non-Party Signatories to take the following concrete steps: § Ensure strict national protection for all Appendix I listed species, especially those listed by IUCN as Endangered or Critically Endangered (all sawfish in Family Pristidae and giant devil ray Mobula mobular) § Co-sponsor and actively promote EU/US-led efforts to establish shortfin mako catch limits under ICCAT § Develop and promote proposals to establish shortfin mako catch limits at other relevant RFMOs § Seek to end exceptions to the mobulid ray protections adopted in 2015 by IATTC § Develop and promote proposals to protect mobulid rays through other relevant RFMOs § Support proposals to list mobula rays, thresher sharks, and silky sharks under CITES3 Appendix II § Ensure national finning bans include best practice prohibitions on at-sea fin removal, without exception § Co-sponsor EU/US-led proposals to strengthen RFMO finning bans by prohibiting at-sea fin removal § Establish active inter-sessional working groups to focus on specific regional conservation priorities § Encourage neighboring countries to sign the Sharks MoU § Complete and submit in a timely manner national progress reports to the CMS Secretariat § Consider proposing to list depleted angel sharks and guitarfishes as well as heavily fished blue sharks. Our organizations are grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with Signatories as Cooperating Partners under the MoU. Through actions like those urged above, we can ensure a brighter future for sharks and rays. Shark Advocates International is a project of The Ocean Foundation working to safeguard sharks and rays through sound, science-based conservation policy. Supporting work in more than 35 countries, Humane Society International is one of the only international organizations working to protect all animals. The Shark Trust is a UK charity working to advance the worldwide conservation of sharks through science, education, influence and action. Project AWARE Foundation is a growing movement of scuba divers protecting the ocean planet – one dive at a time. Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities

New commitments and partners agreed by Signatories to Convention on Migratory Species Shark MoU

The CMS 2010 Shark MoU is the first global instrument dedicated to the conservation of migratory sharks and rays. The addition of 22 species (listed on the CMS Appendices in 2011 and 2014) brings the total number of species under the MoU’s scope to 29: white shark, porbeagle, spiny dogfish, basking shark, both makos, all three threshers, two species of hammerheads, whale shark, all nine devil rays, both mantas, all five sawfishes, and the silky shark. The number of MoU Signatories rose to 40 (39 national governments and the EU) with this week’s addition of Portugal.

“We are encouraged by the growing number of countries that are engaging in CMS shark and ray conservation activities, and welcome the expansion of the Shark MoU scope,” said Sonja Fordham of Shark Advocates International. “At the same time, we are eager for countries to follow up with concrete actions in line with these commitments, particularly strict protections for highly threatened rays, and fishing limits to ensure the long-term health of migratory shark populations.”

Through the CMS Shark MoU and associated Conservation Plan, signatories have agreed to facilitate a better understanding of shark populations and fisheries, set science-based catch limits, prevent “finning” (slicing off a shark’s fins and discarding the body at sea), protect critical shark habitats, and cooperate toward shark conservation through international fisheries and wildlife bodies. Shark Advocates International, Shark Trust, and Project AWARE were among the conservation groups accepted as Cooperating Partners in fulfilling Sharks MoU objectives.

“Our organizations are honored by the opportunity to serve as Cooperating Partners and thereby collaborate toward migratory shark and ray conservation with countries at the forefront of this critical work,” said Ali Hood, Director of Conservation for the Shark Trust. “This status gives us a special opportunity to share expertise and provide support while ensuring implementation of the associated Conservation Plan.”

CMS Parties are obligated to strictly protect the manta and devil rays and the five sawfishes (through listing on CMS Appendix I), and to work internationally to conserve the sharks listed on Appendix II.

“We applaud Costa Rica for hosting this important and successful meeting, and for the country’s past initiatives to secure international trade controls on hammerheads and to strengthen shark finning bans on a global scale,” said Ania Budziak, Associate Director for Project AWARE. “We are hopeful that new commitments made this week will lead to strict national protections for devil rays and sawfishes, and the end of Costa Rican opposition to regional fishing limits for hammerhead and silky sharks.”

Source: 22 Shark and Ray Species Added to Scope of Global Agreement

Marine Debris

Understanding the Problem

Marine Debris

Our ocean is under siege. From everyday trash like plastic bags, food wrappers and drink bottles, to larger items like car batteries, kitchen appliances and fishing nets, our debris is entering the sea at an alarming rate. Our ocean has become a dumping ground.

Marine debris is not only unsightly, it’s dangerous to sea life, hazardous to human health, and costly to our economies. Marine animals can become entangled in debris or mistake small particles of trash for food – often with fatal results. Divers, swimmers and beachgoers can be directly harmed by encounters with debris or its toxins. And, the costs of plastic debris to marine ecosystems are estimated at 13 billion dollars a year.

Join us and take action against marine debris.

Working Toward Solutions

Project AWARE fights for the prevention and reduction of marine debris. Through our Partnerships Against Trash, we work with governments, NGOs and businesses to affect change on a global scale. In order to achieve a long-term solution, we must influence policy at local, national and international levels and prevent trash from entering the ocean in the first place.

Global change is empowered by grassroots movement. We need you – ocean enthusiasts and the scuba diving community – to help by taking action in your local communities!

Through Dive Against Debris, Project AWARE supporters remove undersea litter collected while diving and report results. Trash removed during Dive Against Debris makes the ocean safer for marine life, and more importantly, information reported helps inform policy change. With your help, Project AWARE can use the information you report through Dive Against Debris to convince individuals, governments and businesses to act against marine debris.

Together, we can work towards a clean, healthy ocean planet. Dive Against Debristoday.

Understanding the Problem Our ocean is under siege. From everyday trash like plastic bags, food wrappers and drink bottles, to larger items like car batteries, kitchen appliances and fishing nets, our debris is entering the sea at an alarming rate. Our ocean has become a dumping ground.

Source: Marine Debris

Sharks in Peril

We are emptying the ocean of sharks. Thankfully, divers are some of sharks’ closest and most influential allies. Together, we are creating a powerful, collective voice to lead global grassroots change. You’ve helped us secure a stronger EU finning ban and bring about safeguards for highly traded shark and ray species under CITES.

Sharks in Peril

TAKE ACTION

Here’s why your actions to protect sharks matter:

Nearly one out of four shark and ray species is classified by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) as Threatened with extinction and ray species are found to be at higher risks than sharks. That doesn’t even include almost half of all sharks and ray species whose population status cannot be assessed because of lack of information.

Why do we worry about shark populations? A healthy and abundant ocean depends on predators like sharks keeping ecosystems balanced. And living sharks fuel local economies in some places, like Palau where sharks bring in an estimated $18 million per year through dive tourism.

They may rule the ocean, but sharks are vulnerable. They grow slowly, produce few young, and, as such, are exceptionally susceptible to overexploitation.

Overfishing is driving sharks to the brink – with many populations down by 80 percent. Tens of millions are killed each year for their meat, fins, liver, and other products.

Bycatch– or catching sharks incidentally while fishing for other commercial species – poses a significant threat to sharks. At the same time, new markets for shark products are blurring the line between targeted and accidental catches.

Finning– Shark fins usually fetch a much higher price than shark meat, providing an economic incentive for the wasteful and indefensible practice of “finning” (removing shark fins and discarding the often still alive shark at sea).  Finning is often associated with shark overfishing, especially as keeping only the fins allows fishermen to kill many more sharks in a trip than if they were required to bring back the entire animal.

Shark fishing continues largely unregulated in most of the world’s ocean. Yet the future of sharks hinges on holding shark fishing and trade to sustainable levels. The best way to ensure an end to finning is to require that sharks are landed with their fins still “naturally” attached. Fishing limits must be guided by science and reflect a precautionary approach while trade must be controlled and monitored. We must also invest in shark research and catch reporting, and protect vital shark habitats. We can lead change locally through innovative, results orientated action on the ground. And last, but most definitely not least, if you choose to eat seafood, refrain from a purchase unless you can be certain that it’s coming from a sustainable source.

Source: Sharks in Peril

Mares Viper Pro w/bungee

Mares Viper Pro w/bungee

Viper PRO

The Viper Pro and Viper sling guns are characterized by excellent quality construction; paired with innovative technical solutions that make it possible to guarantee great precision, power, maximum rigidity, and manageability. Optional swiveling band fork adapter, for traditional dual slings. Stainless steel release mechanism in a reversed position, manufactured in stainless steel with high-precision laser cut parts. Adjustable trigger sensitivity, and on Viper Pro the distance between the trigger and the handle can be customized. Stainless steel side line-releaser and two lateral alligator clips. Speed ø 6.5-mm tahitian shaft, S-Power Speed ø 19-mm circular sling, and Vertical Spiro 65 reel on Venom Pro 90 and 75, Vertical Spiro 87 on Viper Pro 100 and 110-cm. Viper Pro is available in 75, 90, 100 and 110-cm lengths.

promotion_VP.jpg

Mares Mask Star

Mares Mask Star

Mask Star

Mask created specifically for spearfishing and freediving, offering a better field of vision paired with the smallest possible volume, thanks to the angled lenses and the extremely reduced eye-lens distance. Utilizing new types of silicone help eliminate undesirable fogging, and the dual-button ergonomic buckles make it even easier to adjust the strap. The Star is manufactured with a mono-silicone skirt.

Mask Mares i3

Mares Mask I3

Mask i3

An unparalled field of vision

• Tri-comfort skirt
• X-Shaped strap
• Quick-adjusting buckles

i3 scuba mask combines the advantages of the Tri-comfort technology with a huge field of vision. In addition to the wide central glass, smaller panels on each side guarantee peripheral vision that will blow you away. The ergonomic 2-button buckles allow for easy and secure adjustment of the strap even when diving with thick gloves.

NEW Mares Mask Essence LiquidSkinfor Fall 2016

NEW Mask for Fall 2016

Essence LiquidSkin

Mask Ess

Unique design for a unique technology

• Great comfort and ample field of vision
• Quick-adjusting buckles on the skirt
• Light, foldable, easy to store

The Essence scuba mask is the maximum expression of LiquidSkin technology. Silicone and glass come together and blend to create a mask that is truly one of a kind. Light and foldable,thanks to the buckles on the skirt, it offers a broad field of vision. All the features are orchestrated by the exclusive design, a synthesis of technology and aesthetics

10 Tips for Divers to Protect the Ocean Planet

Just like climbers and campers have an ethic or code to live by – so do scuba divers. Project AWARE’s 10 Tips for Divers to Protect the Ocean Planet helps divers of all skill levels make a difference when they dive, travel, and more. Boost your eco. Pledge to follow 10 Tips for Divers to Protect the Ocean Planet.

Source: 10 Tips for Divers to Protect the Ocean Planet

10 Tips for Divers to Protect the Ocean Planet

Boost your eco. Pledge to follow 10 Tips for Divers to Protect the Ocean Planet.

You can download and share the 10 Tips for Divers to Protect the Ocean Planet and do your part to take this ocean ethic to heart.

  1. Be a Buoyancy Expert

Underwater plants and animals are more fragile than they appear. The swipe of a fin, bump of your camera or even a touch can destroy decades of coral growth, damage a plant or harm an animal. Streamline your scuba and photo gear, keep your dive skills sharp, perfect your underwater photo techniques and continue your dive training to fine-tune your skills. Always be aware of your body, dive gear and photo equipment to avoid contact with the natural environment.

  1. Be a Role Model

New scuba divers are being trained and certified every day. Regardless of your experience level, be sure to set a good example for others when interacting with the environment – while underwater and on land.

  1. Take Only Photos – Leave Only Bubbles

Nearly everything natural found underwater is alive or will be used by a living creature. If you take a coral, shell or animal, you can disturb the delicate balance and add to the depletion of dive sites for future generations.

  1. Protect Underwater Life

Choose not to touch, feed, handle, chase or ride anything underwater. Your actions may stress the animal, interrupt feeding and mating behavior or provoke aggressive behavior. Understand and respect underwater life and follow all local laws and regulations.

  1. Become a Debris Activist

An astonishing amount of waste makes its way underwater, reaching even the most remote ocean areas. Once there, it kills wildlife, destroys habitats and threatens our health and economy. Don’t let your dives go to waste. Remove and report what doesn’t belong underwater every time you dive. Make a conscious effort to buy green, buy local and, when possible, buy less.

  1. Make Responsible Seafood Choices

Overfishing leads to species declines while harmful fishing practices damage and pollute underwater ecosystems. You play a critical role as a consumer. If seafood is part of your meal selection, ensure you’re choosing sustainably sourced species and encourage others, including restaurants and shop owners, to do the same.

  1. Take Action

Scuba divers are some of the strongest ocean advocates on the planet. Now, more than ever, divers like you are taking a stand. Speak out for conservation, share your underwater images, report environmental damage to authorities and campaign for change.

  1. Be an Eco-tourist

Make informed decisions when choosing and visiting a destination. Choose facilities dedicated to responsible social and environmental business practices that include water conservation, energy reduction, proper waste disposal, use of mooring buoys and respect for local cultures, laws and regulations.

  1. Shrink Your Carbon Footprint

Global warming and ocean acidification are putting your favorite animals and the whole ocean planet at risk. Do your part by understanding and reducing your carbon footprint and look for ways to offset what you can’t reduce.

  1. Give Back

Ocean protection depends on all of our actions, large and small. Investing in the ocean protects our planet and lets the dive adventure live on. Donate or fundraise for ocean protection to fuel the grassroots action and policy change necessary to ensure a clean, healthy ocean planet.

Thank you for giving the ocean planet the protections it deserves!

Posted Sunday, 7 February 2016 by Culebra Snorkeling and Dive Center in Culebra Posts & Reviews

What if Plastic Never Became Waste?

If you’re trying to live a more sustainable life, there are probably some specific words that you look for when choosing the products you bring into your home, such as: recyclable, biodegradable, etc. Although these words have a sustainable connotation, they don’t always guarantee that you’re making a planet-friendly choice.

It is convenient to think that biodegradable plastic is the way out of the problem. Think again!

A common myth surrounding biodegradable plastics, for instance, is that they are a more environmentally friendly option since we assume it will just “return to nature” once disposed – in the landfill or elsewhere. The fact is, most plastic never goes away, but breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces – microplastics.

As people are becoming more aware of the Ugly Journey of our Trash and the immense threat that the production and disposal of plastic waste poses to the environment, it is convenient to think that biodegradable plastic is the way out of the problem. Think again!

A UNEP report published in late last year, entitled Biodegradable Plastics and Marine Litter – Misconceptions, Concerns and Impacts on Marine Environments, finds that complete biodegradation of plastics occurs in conditions that are rarely, if ever, met in marine environments and warns that widespread adoption of biodegradable plastics is likely to actually contribute to marine litter and consequent undesirable consequences for marine ecosystems.

It emphasizes that it should be assumed that microplastics created in the fragmentation process remain in the ocean where they transport harmful microbes, pathogens and algal species, and are consumed by a whole slew of marine organisms. The report also cites research that suggested some people are attracted by “technological solutions” as an alternative to changing behaviour. Labelling a product as biodegradable may be seen as a technical fix that removes responsibility from the individual, resulting in a reluctance to take action.

There’s growing concern about about the threats of microplastics. This is one of the many reasons why Project AWARE welcomes the report: The New Plastics Economy: Rethinking the future of plastics and its vision of a global economy in which plastics never become waste. Through our Partnerships Against Trash, we’re working towards a much needed transition from a linear “take, make, dispose” model of economic growth to a circular economy where plastic products are designed to be reused and recycled continuously.

Applying circular economy principles to global plastic packaging flows could drastically reduce the amount of plastics that make its way into the ocean. Help us work towards long-term effective solutions to end the Ugly Journey of our Trash and join the fight against marine debris – Dive Against Debris™ – to contribute data critical to showing the type and quantity of debris, including plastics, which end up in our ocean every year. Remember there is no away when it comes to waste!

Embedded image permalink

Photo: Plastic bag courtesy of 100% AWARE partner Amarilla Divers

BYLINE: DOMINO ALBERT, PROJECT AWARE COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER

Posted Sunday, 7 February 2016 by Culebra Snorkeling and Dive Center in Culebra Posts & Reviews

Sharks We Need To Protect – Blacktip Reef Shark

Blacktip Reef Shark (Carcharhinus melanopterus)

IUCN STATUS: Near Threatened
You don’t have to feed them; just tap the water, and they come racing toward you. We know that working with models is never easy, but these sharks are eager to pose – finding the right pose is another question altogether. Blacktip sharks are one of the most common shark species found inshore off the coast of Florida. Although the majority of shark bites in Florida are likely attributable to this species, there has never been a fatal attack credited to this species in this region.

DID YOU KNOW? Blacktip reef sharks have a home range of around .21 square mile, among the smallest of any shark species

Blacktip SharkFast Facts About Sharks


Sharks are vulnerable to fishing pressure because they:

  • Grow slowly

  • Take many years to mature (12 to 18 years in some species)

  • Often reproduce only every other year

  • Have few young per brood (only 2 pups in some species)

  • Have specific requirements for nursery areas (bays and estuaries)

  • Are caught in many types of fishing gear (hook and line, gillnet, trawl)

  • Sharks have adaptations allowing them to be apex predators including:

  • Teeth that are replaced throughout their life

  • Sensitive smell receptors

  • Eyes that adapt quickly to low light levels

  • Lateral line receptors that sense movement in the water

  • Electroreceptors that detect electrical fields due to the presence of prey

5-spd-year-of-shark-blacktipreefshark

Habitat  –  The blacktip shark inhabits inshore and offshore waters, but is not a truly pelagic species. They are often seen nearshore around river mouths, bays, mangrove swamps, and in other estuaries, though they do not penetrate far into freshwater. They can be found offshore and over deep waters near coral reef dropoffs, but primarily stay in the upper 100 feet (30 m) of the water column. This species, there has never been a fatal attack credited to this species in the east coast/western Atlantic region. This shark inhabits shallow coastal waters and estuaries and offshore surface waters. Blacktip sharks use shallow inshore waters from South Carolina to Texas as nursery areas for their pups in spring and summer. They can be found in groups as young or adults feeding in shallow water.

Geographical Distribution  –  Blacktip sharks are cosmopolitan in tropical to subtropical coastal, shelf, and island waters. In the Atlantic during their seasonal migration they range from Nova Scotia to Brazil, but their center of abundance is in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea. Off the east coast of the United States blacktip sharks range from New England to Mexico but are most commonly found between North Carolina and Texas, especially in spring and summer. They occur throughout the Mediterranean and along the central West coast of Africa. In the Pacific they range from Southern California to Peru, including the Sea of Cortez. They occur at the Galapagos Islands, Hawaii, Tahiti, and other South Pacific Islands, to the North coast of Australia. In the Indian Ocean they range from South Africa and Madagascar up to the Red Sea, Persian Gulf, throughout India’s coast, and east to the coast of China.

Size, Age, and Growth  –  The maximum reported length of the blacktip shark is 8.4 feet (255 cm). Size at birth is 15-28 inches (38-72 cm). Average adult size is around 4.9 feet (150 cm), weighing about 40 lbs. (18 kg). This species is a relatively fast growing shark, maturity is 4-5 years for males, and 6-7 years for females. The maximum age of blacktips is thought to be at least 12 years.  In waters off the southeastern U.S., the length at maturity is 4.8 feet (145 cm) total length (TL) for males corresponding to a weight of approximately 43 pounds (19.5 kg) and 5.2 feet (156 cm) TL for females corresponding to a weight of approximately 55 pounds (25 kg) (source: Castro 1996).

Food Habits –  The blacktip shark primarily feeds on small schooling fishes such as herring, sardines, menhaden, mullet, and anchovies, but also eats many other bony fishes including catfishes, groupers, jacks, snook, porgies, grunts, croakers, flatfishes, triggerfish, and porcupine fish. They are also known to consume some elasmobranch species including dogfish, sharpnose sharks, young dusky sharks, skates, and stingrays. Crustaceans and squids are also occasionally taken.

Blacktips, as well as their close relative the spinner shark, are known to breach out of the water while feeding, sometimes spinning up to three or four times around their axis. This behavior is thought to facilitate the sharks’ predatory success while feeding on schools of fish near the surface. The sharks vertically attack the school at high speed, snapping at the fish as they pass through it. The momentum then carries them through the ocean’s surface.

Reproduction –  Development in the blacktip is viviparous, meaning they give birth to live, free-swimming young like others in the carcharhinid family. Males reach sexual maturity between 4.4 and 5.9 feet (135-180 cm). Females reach maturity at 3.9-6.3 feet (120-190 cm). Gestation last 10-12 months, and they give birth in late spring and early summer to 1-10 pups. Females give birth in inshore estuarine nursery grounds where the young remain for the first years of their lives.

Predators –  Adult blacktip sharks do not have any common natural predators. Like other members of this shark family, however, the young are likely to be at risk from larger sharks.BlackTip 1

It’s a sobering statistic: Up to 25 percent of the world’s sharks and rays are threatened with extinction, according to the IUCN Shark Specialist Group (SSG). Using the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species criteria, the SSG says that of the 1,041 species assessed, 107 rays and 74 sharks are classified as threatened.

Because they grow slowly and produce few young, both sharks and rays are susceptible to overexploitation — including overfishing from targeted fishing, bycatch and finning. Thanks largely to compelling arguments from the diving community, we’re making progress to ensure that these animals receive the conservation attention they desperately need. While our work in recent years represents terrific progress, the IUCN study reminds us that these threatened species, and closely related ones — such as guitarfish, sawfish, skates and stingrays — also need our attention.

“Significant policy strides have been made over the past two decades, but effective shark and ray conservation requires a dramatic acceleration in pace as well as an expansion of scope to include all shapes and sizes of these exceptional species,” says Sonja Fordham, IUCN SSG deputy chair
and president of the Washington, D.C.-based Shark Advocates International, a project of the Ocean Foundation.

Healthy shark and ray populations are priceless. Project AWARE and other conservation agencies work every day to make strong arguments for change, but we need your help. Let’s truly make this the year of the shark — together.

Want to get involved with shark conservation? Visit the Project AWARE website and find out how you can make a difference – http://www.projectaware.org/

via 10 Sharks We Need To Protect | Sport Diver.

Posted Sunday, 31 January 2016 by Culebra Snorkeling and Dive Center in Culebra Posts & Reviews

Cruises to Culebra from Puerto Rico | Best Caribbean Cruises | Islands

Old San Juan, the historic district of Puerto Rico’s biggest city, is a mecca for cruise ships. And why not? The port’s location and availability of non-stop flights from major U.S. markets make it a great jumping-off point for ships exploring the heart of the Caribbean. Here are seven great cruise itineraries that either begin or include a stop in Puerto Rico.

puerto-rico-cruise-windstar
Courtesy of Windstar Cruises
via Cruises to Puerto Rico | Best Caribbean Cruises | Islands.

See 5 bright planets at once! | EarthSky.org

First time we can see 5 planets at once since 2005. All 5 are up before dawn. The moon is now sweeping past the planets and can help you identify them.

The last time we saw all five visible planets together was from about December 15, 2004, to January 15, 2005, over a decade ago.

By bright or visible planet, we mean any planet in our own solar system that’s easily viewed without an optical aid and that has been watched by our ancestors since time immemorial.

See photos of the 5 planets, from the EarthSky community

In their outward order from the sun, the five bright planets are Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. These planets are easily seen in our sky because they are relatively nearby. Their disks reflect sunlight and shine with a steadier light than the distant, twinkling stars.

You can catch most of these planets long before dawn. Jupiter rises first, in the evening hours, followed by Mars after midnight and then Saturn, Venus and Mercury. Click here for recommended almanacs that will help you find when each planet rises into your sky for any given date.

Distances from the sun of planets in our solar system, expressed in A.U.  Graph via planetsforkids.org

Distances from the sun of planets in our solar system, expressed in A.U. Graph via planetsforkids.org

Relative distances of the planets to the sun. These distances are expressed in astronomical units (AUs, or sun-Earth units):

Mercury: 0.387 AU
Venus: 0.723 AU
Earth: 1.000 AU
Mars: 1.524 AU
Jupiter: 5.203 AU
Saturn: 9.529 AU
Uranus: 19.19 AU
Neptune: 30.06 AU

When will we see all five planets together again? We’ve had a number of people ask us when the next presentation of the five visible planets in the same sky will take place. It will be possible to view all five in the evening sky – very briefly – from about August 13 to 19, 2016.

There’s a huge caveat, however. Right now, all five planets are strung out across the early morning sky in an easy-to-see way (well, Mercury is the tough one, so close to the sunrise, but keep watching … it’ll get easier). In August, Mercury and Venus will be sitting low in the west at dusk and not that easy to catch from northerly latitudes.

The Southern Hemisphere definitely has the big advantage for spotting all five planets in the August, 2016, evening sky.

Bottom line: All five bright planets – Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn – will appear together in the morning sky from about January 20 to February 20, 2016. That hasn’t happened since 2005. The moon is sweeping past the planets, beginning with Jupiter on the night of January 27, 2016. Then Mars on the morning of February 1. Then Saturn, Venus, Mercury!

Source: See 5 bright planets at once! | EarthSky.org

Posted Sunday, 31 January 2016 by Culebra Snorkeling and Dive Center in Culebra Posts & Reviews

How to Select the Perfect Dive Fins

Fin

When it comes to scuba diving gear, there are numerous benefits to finding the perfect pair of fins: maximum thrust, increased comfort, less leg strain and way more fun. But with the wide selection of styles on the market, where should divers begin their search? The following tips should help you narrow your choices. In the end, the toughest part is picking just one.

GETTING THE RIGHT FIT
The most important factor in choosing fins is getting the proper fit. Here’s how to measure the best fit for both full-foot and open heel fins.
**
Full-Foot Fins**
To test the fit of full-foot fins, put your weight on the ball of your foot, as if from a runner’s starting position, and try to step out of it. If it comes off, it’s too big.
**
Open-Heel Fins**
To test the fit of open heel fins, sit down with the fin on and try to wiggle your foot back and forth and up and down. The fins should move as one with the foot without slipping.

PADDLE FINS VS. SPLIT FINS
The difference between paddle fins and split fins is basically a matter of kicking style.

How Paddle Fins Work
Paddle fins work best with a traditional, longer scissors kick.
* Simple Physics: Paddle fins act as a natural extension of the human leg, giving our feet — which are not designed to create efficient thrust in water — much-needed assistance.
* Blade Designs: The main difference between paddle fins are in the size, shape and construction of the blade.
* For Best Performance: Use a long, smooth flutter kick, and consider alternating with a frog kick to share the load with other muscle groups.

How Split Fins Work
Split fins work best with a shallow and rapid flutter kick.
* Propeller Effect: The technology for this type of fin is based on each side of the split blade twisting independently to create lift that translates into greater thrust.
* Decreased Resistance: The design is meant to reduce leg and ankle strain, because the split blade operates more efficiently with less drag during the up and down strokes.
* For Best Performance: With split fins, use a slightly shallower and more rapid flutter kick.

via How to Select the Perfect Dive Fins | Sport Diver.

In the Wake of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, Gulf Dolphins Found Sick and Dying in Larger Numbers Than Ever Before | response.restoration.noaa.gov

Gulf Dolphins Found Sick and Dying in Larger Numbers Than Ever Before

Dolphin with oil on its skin swimming.

A dolphin is observed with oil on its skin on August 5, 2010, in Barataria Bay, Louisiana. (Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries/Mandy Tumlin)

The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: Five Years Later

This is the third in a series of stories over the coming weeks looking at various topics related to the response, the Natural Resource Damage Assessment science, restoration efforts, and the future of the Gulf of Mexico.

APRIL 3, 2015 — Dolphins washing up dead in the northern Gulf of Mexico are not an uncommon phenomenon.

What has been uncommon, however, is how many moredead bottlenose dolphins have been observed in coastal waters affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the five years since. In addition to these alarmingly high numbers, researchers have found that bottlenose dolphins living in those areas are in poor health, plagued by chronic lung disease and failed pregnancies.

Independent and government scientists have undertaken a number of studies to understand how this oil spill may have affected dolphins, observed swimming through oil and with oil on their skin, living in waters along the Gulf Coast. These ongoing efforts have included examining and analyzing dead dolphins stranded on beaches, using photography to monitor living populations, and performing comprehensive health examinations on live dolphins in areas both affected and unaffected byDeepwater Horizon oil.

The results of these rigorous studies, which recently have been and continue to be published in peer-reviewed scientific journals, show that, in the wake of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill and in the areas hardest hit, the dolphin populations of the northern Gulf of Mexico have been in crisis.

Troubled Waters

Left, scientists taking a blood sample from one dolphin in the water and right, a team of researchers in the water photographs a dolphin’s dorsal fin against a white square.

Left, in 2011 veterinary scientists took blood samples from bottlenose dolphins in Barataria Bay, Louisiana, as part of an overall health assessment. Right, the same team of researchers photographed dolphins’ dorsal fins as a means of identifying individuals and monitoring populations in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. (NOAA)

Due south of New Orleans, Louisiana, and northwest of the Macondo oil well that gushed millions of barrels of oil for 87 days, lies Barataria Bay. Its boundaries are a complex tangle of inlets and islands, part of the marshy delta where the Mississippi River meets the Gulf of Mexico and year-round home to a group of bottlenose dolphins.

During the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, this area was one of the most heavily oiled along the coast. Beginning the summer after the spill, record numbers of dolphins started stranding, or coming ashore, often dead, in Barataria Bay (Venn-Watson et al. 2015). One period of extremely high numbers of dolphin deaths in Barataria Bay, part of the ongoing, largest and longest-lasting dolphin die-off recorded in the Gulf of Mexico, persisted from August 2010 until December 2011.

In the summer of 2011, researchers also measured the health of dolphins living in Barataria Bay, comparing them with dolphins in Sarasota Bay, Florida, an area untouched by the Deepwater Horizonoil spill.

Differences between the two populations were stark.

Many Barataria Bay dolphins were in very poor health, some of them significantly underweight and five times more likely to have moderate-to-severe lung disease. Notably, the dolphins of Barataria Bay also were suffering from disturbingly low levels of key stress hormones which could prevent their bodies from responding appropriately to stressful situations. (Schwacke et al. 2014)

“The magnitude of the health effects that we saw was surprising,” said NOAA scientist Dr. Lori Schwacke, who helped lead this study. “We’ve done these health assessments in a number of locations across the southeast U.S. coast and we’ve never seen animals that were in this poor of condition.”

The types of illnesses observed in live Barataria Bay dolphins, which had sufficient opportunities to inhale or ingest oil following the 2010 spill, match those found in people and other animals also exposed to oil. In addition, the levels of other pollutants, such as DDT and PCBs, which previously have been linked to adverse health effects in marine mammals, were much lower in Barataria Bay dolphins than those from the west coast of Florida.

Dead in the Water

Based on findings from the 2011 study, the outlook for dolphins living in one of the most heavily oiled areas of the Gulf was grim. Nearly 20 percent of the Barataria Bay dolphins examined that year were not expected to live, and in fact, the carcass of one of them was found dead less than six months later (Schwacke et al. 2014). Scientists have continued to monitor the dolphins of Barataria Bay to document their health, survival, and success giving birth.

Left, dolphin Y12 during a health assessment in August 2011 and right, after his carcass was recovered in January 2012.

Left, August 2011: Veterinarians collect a urine sample from Y12, a 16-year-old adult male bottlenose dolphin caught near Grand Isle, LA. Y12’s health evaluation determined that he was significantly underweight, anemic, and had indications of liver and lung disease. (NOAA) Right, January 2012: The carcass of Y12 was recovered on Grand Isle Beach. The visible ribs, prominent vertebral processes and depressions along the back are signs of extreme emaciation. (Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries)

Considering these health conditions, it should come as little surprise that record high numbers of dolphins have been dying along the coasts of Louisiana (especially Barataria Bay), Alabama, and Mississippi. This ongoing, higher-than-usual marine mammal die-off, known as an unusual mortality event, has lasted over four years and claimed more than a thousand marine mammals, mostly bottlenose dolphins. For comparison, the next longest lasting Gulf die-off (in 2005–2006) ended after roughly a year and a half (Litz et al. 2014 [PDF]).

Researchers studying this exceptionally long unusual mortality event, which began in February 2010, identified within it multiple distinct groupings of dolphin deaths. All but one of them occurred after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which released oil from April to July 2010, and corresponded with areas exposed heavily to the oil, particularly Barataria Bay (Venn-Watson et al. 2015).

In early 2011, the spring following the oil spill, Mississippi and Alabama saw a marked increase in dead dolphin calves, which either died late in pregnancy or soon after birth, and which would have been exposed to oil as they were developing.

The Gulf coasts of Florida and Texas, which received comparatively little oiling from the Deepwater Horizon spill, did not see the same significant annual increases in dead dolphins as the other Gulf states (Venn-Watson et al. 2015). For example, Louisiana sees an average of 20 dead whales and dolphins wash up each year, but in 2011 alone, this state recorded 163 (Litz et al. 2014 [PDF]).

The one grouping of dolphin deaths starting before the spill, from March to May 2010, took place in Louisiana’s Lake Pontchartrain (a brackish lagoon) and western Mississippi. Researchers observed both low salinity levels in this lake and tell-tale skin lesions thought to be associated with low salinity levels on this group of dolphins. This combined evidence supports that short-term, freshwater exposure in addition to cold weather early in 2010 may have been key contributors to those dolphin deaths prior to the Deepwater Horizon spill.

Legacy of a Spill?

A bottlenose dolphin swims in the shallow waters along a sandy beach with orange oil boom.

A bottlenose dolphin swims in the shallow waters along the beach in Grand Isle, Louisiana, near oil containment boom that was deployed on May 28, 2010. Oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill began washing up on beaches here one month after the drilling unit exploded. (U.S. Coast Guard)

In the past, large dolphin die-offs in the Gulf of Mexico could usually be tied to short-lived, discrete events, such as morbillivirus and marine biotoxins (resulting from harmful algal blooms). While studies are ongoing, the current evidence does not support that these past causes are responsible for the current increases in dolphin deaths in the northern Gulf since 2010 (Litz et al. 2014).

However, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill—its timing, location, and nature—offers the strongest evidence for explaining why so many dolphins have been sick and dying in the Gulf since 2010. Ongoing studies are assessing disease among dolphins that have died and potential changes in dolphin health over the years since the spill.

As is the case for deep-sea corals, the full effects of this oil spill on the long-lived and slow-to-mature bottlenose dolphins and other dolphins and whales in the Gulf may not appear for years. Find more information related to dolphin health in the Gulf of Mexico on NOAA’s Unusual Mortality Event andGulf Spill Restoration websites.

By Ashley Braun, NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration Web Editor.

Source: In the Wake of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, Gulf Dolphins Found Sick and Dying in Larger Numbers Than Ever Before | response.restoration.noaa.gov

Why PADI Divemasters Rock | Sport Diver

PADI Divemasters Rock

 They’re always there when you need them. See who’s giving a shoutout to their favorite PADI Divemaster.

Even for those who didn’t struggle, a Divemaster may have helped render your dives safer by ensuring your gear was donned correctly and buddy checks were properly conducted. For example, PADI Diver Patrick Loerbach wrote to PADI about the Divemaster who assisted him during his PADI Advanced Open Water Diver course at PADI Five Star Career Development Center Couples Resort in St. Ann, Jamaica, last summer.

“Divemaster Collin Whyte was always happy, chatty — and busy! He did such a great job of keeping us laughing that it was several dives before I came to see how organized and detailed he was in preparing the equipment, knowing the skills and experience of each diver, and making sure everyone was safe and comfortable. He was a stickler for making sure ascents and descents were done properly, and he had a knack for spotting cool things that we missed. Having Collin there always made for a better dive.”

First-Rate Boat Mates

Going on a boat dive? Don’t forget to bring along your favorite PADI Divemaster.

A Divemaster is often the person on the boat who assists you in getting ready to dive, from helping you set up your gear to making sure your air is on before you take that giant stride into the water. When you were new, it was most likely a Divemaster who helped you with your predive jitters by telling you funny stories. Once underwater, he led you to the best places to see the coolest creatures, helping you forget your nerves. Or, perhaps he trailed the dive group, ready to assist if needed, while ensuring the group stayed together and everyone returned safely back to the boat. Better still, at the end of your dive, it was probably the Divemaster who eased your passage out of the water by taking your fins and any other equipment you may have needed to hand off before climbing the ladder.

Are You Hero Material?

Aside from being heroically helpful, PADI Divemasters get to do some cool stuff — like live the dive life every day. They can travel the world, seeking employment at more than 6,200 PADI Dive Centers and Resorts; leading Discover Local Diving excursions, snorkeling tours and select PADI Adventure Dives; and teaching PADI ReActivate, PADI’s new scuba-refresher program. Divemasters can also apply to become Discover Scuba Diving leaders, Underwater Photographer instructors or Emergency Oxygen Provider instructors.

If you think you’d like to become a PADI Divemaster, visit padi.com for prerequisites for the course. If you meet the requirements, you can start your Divemaster program today with the PADI Divemaster Online course, or by enrolling at your local PADI Dive Center or Resort.

Source: Why PADI Divemasters Rock | Sport Diver

Largest Oil Spills Affecting U.S. Waters Since 1969 | response.restoration.noaa.gov

Oil Spills Affecting U.S. Waters Since 1969

Thousands of oil spills occur in U.S. waters each year, but most are small in size, spilling less than one barrel of oil.

Yet since the iconic 1969 oil well blowout in Santa Barbara, California, there have been at least 44 oil spills over 10,000 barrels (420,000 gallons) affecting U.S. waters. The largest of which was the 2010Deepwater Horizon well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico.

NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration has created the following graphic listing these spills based on records and information from its Emergency Response Division. While every effort has been made to develop a complete list, there may be additional incidents that NOAA was not involved in responding to and therefore are not represented here.

This graphic also is focused on oil spills on or into U.S. navigable waters, which excludes terrestrial and underground spills. Spill volumes may be inexact due to the causes of some incidents, such as fire, sinking, and hurricanes.

In addition, even relatively small oil spills can cause major environmental and economic harm, depending on location, season, environmental sensitivity, and type of oil. As a result, this graphic also includes examples of major U.S. oil spills less than 10,000 barrels.

Map showing location and relative size of largest oil spills affecting U.S. waters since 1969.

                                                                                Largest oil spills affecting U.S. waters since 1969 (NOAA) Click to enlarge.

 

 

Source: Largest Oil Spills Affecting U.S. Waters Since 1969 | response.restoration.noaa.gov

Posted Sunday, 1 November 2015 by Culebra Snorkeling and Dive Center in Culebra Posts & Reviews

Attempting to Answer One Question Over and Over Again: Where Will the Oil Go?

 Where Will the Oil Go?

A heavy band of oil is visible on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico.

A heavy band of oil is visible on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico during an overflight of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on May 12, 2010. Predicting where oil like this will travel depends on variable factors including wind and currents. (NOAA)

 

Overflight surveys from airplanes or helicopters help responders find oil slicks as they move and break up across a potentially wide expanse of water. They give snapshots of where the oil is located and how it is behaving at a specific date and time, which NOAA uses to compare to our oceanographic models. (U.S. Coast Guard)

 

Two people in a helicopter over water.

The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: Five Years Later

This is the first in a series of stories over the coming weeks looking at various topics related to the response, the Natural Resource Damage Assessment science, restoration efforts, and the future of the Gulf of Mexico.

MARCH 30, 2015 — Oil spills raise all sorts of scientific questions, andNOAA’s job is to help answer them.

We have a saying that each oil spill is unique, but there is one question we get after almost every spill: Where will the oil go? One of our primary scientific products during a spill is a trajectory forecast, which often takes the form of a map showing where the oil is likely to travel and which shorelines and other environmentally or culturally sensitive areas might be at risk.

Oil spill responders need to know this information to know which shorelines to protect with containment boom, or where to stage cleanup equipment, or which areas should be closed to fishing or boating during a spill.

To help predict the movement of oil, wedeveloped the computer model GNOME to forecast the complex interactions among currents, winds, and other physical processes affecting oil’s movement in the ocean. We update this model daily with information gathered from field observations, such as those from trained observers tasked with flying over a spill to verify its often-changing location, and new forecasts for ocean currents and winds.

Modeling a Moving Target

One of the biggest challenges we’ve faced in trying to answer this question was, not surprisingly, the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Because of the continual release of oil—tens of thousands of barrels of oil each day—over nearly three months, we had to prepare hundreds of forecasts as more oil entered the Gulf of Mexico each day, was moved by ocean currents and winds, and was weathered, or physically, biologically, or chemically changed, by the environment and response efforts.

A typical forecast includes modeling the outlook of the oil’s spread over the next 24, 48, and 72 hours. This task began with the first trajectory our oceanographers issued early in the morning April 21, 2010 after being notified of the accident, and continued for the next 107 days in a row. (You canaccess all of the forecasts from this spill online.)

Once spilled into the marine environment, oil begins to move and spread surprisingly quickly but not necessarily in a straight line. In the open ocean, winds and currents can easily move oil 20 miles or more per day, and in the presence of strong ocean currents such as the Gulf Stream, oil and other drifting materials can travel more than 100 miles per day. Closer to the coast, tidal currents also can move and spread oil across coastal waters.

While the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig and wellhead were located only 50 miles offshore of Louisiana, it took several weeks for the slick to reach shore as shifting winds and meandering currents slowly moved the oil.

A Spill Playing on Loop

Over the duration of a typical spill, we’ll revise and reissue our forecast maps on a daily basis. These maps include our best prediction of where the oil might go and the regions of highest oil coverage, as well as what is known as a “confidence boundary.” This is a line encircling not just our best predictions for oil coverage but also a broader area on the map reflecting the full possible range in our forecasts [PDF].

Our oceanographers include this confidence boundary on the forecast maps to indicate that there is a chance that oil could be located anywhere inside its borders, depending on actual conditions for wind, weather, and currents.

Why is there a range of possible locations in the oil forecasts? Well, the movement of oil is very sensitive to ocean currents and wind, and predictions of oil movement rely on accurate predictions of the currents and wind at the spill site. In addition, sometimes the information we put into the model is based on an incomplete picture of a spill. Much of the time, the immense size of the Deepwater Horizon spill on the ocean surface meant that observations from specialists flying over the spill and even satellites couldn’t capture the full picture of where all the oil was each day.

Left, woman pointing and explaining maps on desk to man. Right, dark brown and red oil on ocean surface with two response ships.

Forecasters attempt to assess all the possible outcomes for a given scenario, estimate the likelihood of the different possibilities, and ultimately communicate risks to the decision makers. Left, NOAA oceanographer Amy MacFadyen explains how NOAA creates oil trajectory maps to then-Department of Commerce Secretary Gary Locke. Photo at right taken on May 27, 2010 near an ocean convergence zone shows dark brown and red emulsified oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The movement of oil is very sensitive to ocean currents and wind, and the size of this spill further complicated our attempts to model where the oil would go. (NOAA)

Our inevitably inexact knowledge of the many factors informing the trajectory model introduces a certain level of expected variation in its predictions, which is the situation with many models. Forecasters attempt to assess all the possible outcomes for a given scenario, estimate the likelihood of the different possibilities, and ultimately communicate risks to the decision makers.

In the case of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, we had the added complexity of a spill that spanned many different regions—from the deep Gulf of Mexico, where ocean circulation is dominated by the swift Loop Current, to the continental shelf and nearshore area where ocean circulation is influenced by freshwater flowing from the Mississippi River.  And let’s not forget that several tropical storms andhurricanes crossed the Gulf that summer [PDF].

A big concern was that if oil got into the main loop current, it could be transported to the Florida Keys, Cuba, the Bahamas, or up the eastern coast of the United States. Fortunately (for the Florida Keys) a giant eddy formed in the Gulf of Mexico in June 2010 (nicknamed Eddy Franklin after Benjamin Franklin, who did some of the early research on the Gulf Stream). This “Eddy Franklin” created a giant circular water current that kept the oil largely contained in the Gulf of Mexico.

Some of the NOAA forecast team likened our efforts that spring and summer to the movie Groundhog Day, in which the main character is forced to relive the same day over and over again. For our team, every day involved modeling the same oil spill again and again, but with constantly changing results.

Thinking back on that intense forecasting effort brings back memories packed with emotion—and exhaustion. But mostly, we recall with pride the important role our forecast team in Seattle played in answering the question “where will the oil go?”

By Doug Helton, NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration Incident Operations Coordinator.

Source: Attempting to Answer One Question Over and Over Again: Where Will the Oil Go? | response.restoration.noaa.gov

Dive Life: Girls Just Wanna Change the World

Our sport was once a male-dominated pursuit, but women are changing the face of the scuba diving. To celebrate PADI is launching Women’s Dive Day.

What was once a male-dominated sport has become a woman’s realm.

While diving once might have been considered a male pursuit, women are changing the face of our sport. Dr. Sylvia Earle was more than just a 2014 Glamour Woman of the Year; she was also deemed the first Hero for the Planet by Time magazine, and designated a Living Legend by the Library of Congress. The member roster of the Women Divers Hall of Fame is filled with similar women who have shaped the world of diving. It’s time to celebrate female divers’ contributions to the sport, so PADI is launching Women’s Dive Day on July 18 to honor them.

Women to Watch

Szilvia Gogh is a well-known underwater stunt woman and founder of Miss Scuba (miss-scuba.com), which was designed to bring together women who share an enthusiasm for diving from all over the world. She was also one of the youngest women ever accepted into the PADI Course Director Training Course and recently held a female-friendly course to develop the next generation of Dive Instructors. “What inspired them to become PADI Professionals, I believe, was that they saw me live out my dreams,”says Gogh. “I get to do what I love and, to me, this means everything.”

For others, like Georgienne Bradley, diving helped marry interests in biology and photography. She was instrumental in helping Cocos Island become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. One of her proudest achievements though has been her involvement in scholar expeditions for young girls. “These trips allow girls to open up, not be intimidated, and come into their own,” says Bradley.

The women of SEDNA Epic Expedition (sednaepic.com) are another great example. Expedition leader Susan R. Eaton is surrounded by a team of female scientists, explorers and photographers who will embark on a 1,864-mile journey, snorkeling from Pond Inlet, Nunavut, to Inuvik, Northwest Territories in Canada. Their goal is to increase awareness of climate change and to inspire action, especially among youth and women.

A Day to Remember

If you’re interested in organizing an event or participating in a local dive for Women’s Dive Day, please send an email to womendive@padi.com or visit padi.com/women-dive.

Source: Dive Life: Girls Just Wanna Change the World | Sport Diver

Latest NOAA Study Ties Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill to Spike in Gulf Dolphin Deaths

Spike in Gulf of Mexico Dolphin Deaths

Group of dolphin fins at ocean surface.

A study published in the journal PLOS ONE found that an unusually high number of dead Gulf dolphins had what are normally rare lesions on their lungs and hormone-producing adrenal glands, which are associated with exposure to oil compounds. (NOAA)

Using ultrasound to examine the lungs of live dolphins in Barataria Bay, Louisiana. “These dolphins had some of the most severe lung lesions I have seen in the over 13 years that I have been examining dead dolphin tissues from throughout the United States,” said Dr. Kathleen Colegrove, the study’s lead veterinary pathologist based at the University of Illinois.

MAY 20, 2015 — What has been causing the alarming increase in dead bottlenose dolphins along the northern Gulf of Mexico since theDeepwater Horizon oil spill in the summer of 2010?People taking an ultrasound of a dolphin's lungs.

Independent and government scientists have found even more evidenceconnecting these deaths to the same signs of illness found in animals exposed to petroleum products, as reported in the peer-reviewed online journalPLOS ONE.

This latest study uncovered that an unusually high number of dead Gulf dolphins had what are normally rare lesions on their lungs and hormone-producing adrenal glands.

The timing, location, and nature of the lesions support that oil compounds from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill caused these lesions and contributed to the high numbers of dolphin deaths within this oil spill’s footprint.

“This is the latest in a series of peer-reviewed scientific studies, conducted over the five years since the spill, looking at possible reasons for the historically high number of dolphin deaths that have occurred within the footprint of the Deepwater Horizon spill,” said Dr. Teri Rowles, one of 22 contributing authors on the paper, and head ofNOAA’s Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program, which is charged with determining the causes of unusual mortality events.

“These studies have increasingly pointed to the presence of petroleum hydrocarbons as being the most significant cause of the illnesses and deaths plaguing the Gulf’s dolphin population,” said Dr. Rowles.

A System out of Balance

In this study, one in every three dead dolphins examined across Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama had lesions affecting their adrenal glands, resulting in a serious condition known as “adrenal insufficiency.” The adrenal gland produces hormones—such as cortisol and aldosterone—that regulate metabolism, blood pressure and other bodily functions.

“Animals with adrenal insufficiency are less able to cope with additional stressors in their everyday lives,” said Dr. Stephanie Venn-Watson, the study’s lead author and veterinary epidemiologist at the National Marine Mammal Foundation, “and when those stressors occur, they are more likely to die.”

Earlier studies of Gulf dolphins in areas heavily affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill found initial signs of this illness in a 2011 health assessment of dolphins living in Barataria Bay, Louisiana. NOAA scientists Dr. Rowles and Dr. Lori Schwacke spoke about the results of this health assessment in a 2013 interview:

“One rather unusual condition that we noted in many of the Barataria Bay dolphins was that they had very low levels of some hormones (specifically, cortisol) that are produced by the adrenal gland and are important for a normal stress response.

Under a stressful condition, such as being chased by a predator, the adrenal gland produces cortisol, which then triggers a number of physiological responses including an increased heart rate and increased blood sugar. This gives an animal the energy burst that it needs to respond appropriately.

In the Barataria Bay dolphins, cortisol levels were unusually low. The concern is that their adrenal glands were incapable of producing appropriate levels of cortisol, and this could ultimately lead to a number of complications and in some situations even death.”

Swimming with Pneumonia

Boats with nets to capture dolphins in the ocean.

An earlier study described health examinations on live dolphins in Barataria Bay, one of the heaviest oiled parts of the Gulf of Mexico, in 2011, which found evidence of poor health, adrenal disease, and lung disease consistent with petroleum product exposure. (NOAA)

In addition to the lesions on adrenal glands, the scientific team discovered that more than one in five dolphins that died within the Deepwater Horizon oil spill footprint had a primary bacterial pneumonia. Many of these cases were unusual in severity, and caused or contributed to death.

Ultrasounds showing a normal dolphin lung, compared to lungs with mild, moderate, and severe lung disease.

Ultrasounds showing a normal dolphin lung, compared to lungs with mild, moderate, and severe lung disease. These conditions are consistent with exposure to oil compounds and were found in bottlenose dolphins living in Barataria Bay, Louisiana, one of the most heavily oiled areas during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. (NOAA)

Drs. Rowles and Schwacke previously had observed significant problems in the lungs of dolphins living in Barataria Bay. Again, in 2013, they had noted, “In some of the animals, the lung disease was so severe that we considered it life-threatening for that individual.”

In other mammals, exposure to petroleum-based polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, known as PAHs, through inhalation or aspiration of oil products can lead to injured lungs and altered immune function, both of which can increase an animal’s susceptibility to primary bacterial pneumonia.

Dolphins are particularly susceptible to inhalation effects due to their large lungs, deep breaths, and extended breath hold times.

Learn more about NOAA research documenting the impacts from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and find more stories reflecting on the five years since this oil spill.

Source: Latest NOAA Study Ties Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill to Spike in Gulf Dolphin Deaths | response.restoration.noaa.gov

What Happens When Oil Spills Meet Massive Islands of Seaweed?

Floating rafts of sargassum, a large brown seaweed, can stretch for miles across the ocean.

Floating bits of brown seaweed at ocean surface
                                                            (Credit: Sean Nash/Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license)

The young loggerhead sea turtle, its ridged shell only a few inches across, is perched calmly among the floating islands of large brown seaweed, known as sargassum. Casually, it nibbles on the leaf-like blades of the seaweed, startling a nearby crab. Open ocean stretches for miles around these large free-floating seaweed mats where myriad creatures make their home.

Suddenly, a shadow passes overhead. A hungry seabird?

Taking no chances, the small sea turtle dips beneath the ocean surface. It dives through the yellow-brown sargassum with its tangle of branches and bladders filled with air, keeping everything afloat.

Home Sweet Sargassum

This little turtle isn’t alone in seeking safety and food in these buoyant mazes of seaweed. Perhaps nowhere is this more obvious than a dynamic stretch of the Atlantic Ocean off the East Coast of North America named for this seaweed: the Sargasso Sea. Sargassum is also an important part of the Gulf of Mexico, which contains the second most productive sargassum ecosystem in the world.

Some shrimp, crabs, and fish are specially suited to life in sargassum. Certain species of eel, fish, and shark spawn there. Each year, humpback whales, tuna, and seabirds migrate across these fruitful waters, taking advantage of the gathering of life that occurs where ocean currents converge.

Cutaway graphic of ocean with healthy sargassum seaweed habitat supporting marine life.

The Wide and Oily Sargasso Sea

However, an abundance of marine life isn’t the only other thing that can accumulate with these large patches of sargassum. Spilled oil, carried by currents, can also end up swirling among the seaweed.

If an oil spill made its way somewhere like the Sargasso Sea, a young sea turtle would encounter a much different scene. As the ocean currents brought the spill into contact with sargassum, oil would coat those same snarled branches and bladders of the seaweed. The turtles and other marine life living within and near the oiled sargassum would come into contact with the oil too, as they dove, swam, and rested among the floating mats.

That oil can be inhaled as vapors, be swallowed or consumed with food, and foul feathers, skin, scales, shell, and fur, which in turn smothers, suffocates, or strips the animal of its ability to stay insulated. The effects can be toxic and deadly.

Cutaway graphic of ocean with potential impacts of oil on sargassum seaweed habitat and marine life.

While sea turtles, for example, as cold-blooded reptiles, may enjoy the relatively warmer waters of sargassum islands, a hot sun beating down on an oiled ocean surface can raise water temperatures to extreme levels. What starts as soothing can soon become stressful.

Depending on how much oil arrived, the sargassum would grow less, or not at all, or even die. These floating seaweed oases begin shrinking. Where will young sea turtles take cover as they cross the unforgiving open ocean?

As life in the sargassum starts to perish, it may drop to the ocean bottom, potentially bringing oil and the toxic effects with it. Microbes in the water may munch on the oil and decompose the dead marine life, but this can lead to ocean oxygen dropping to critical levels and causing further harm in the area.

From Pollution to Protection

Young sea turtles swims through floating seaweed mats.

NOAA and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service havedesignated sargassum as a critical habitat for threatened loggerhead sea turtles.

Sargassum has also been designated as Essential Fish Habitat by Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council and National Marine Fisheries Service since it also provides nursery habitat for many important fishery species (e.g., dolphinfish, triggerfishes, tripletail, billfishes, tunas, and amberjacks) and for ecologically important forage fish species (e.g., butterfishes and flyingfishes).

Sargassum and its inhabitants are particularly vulnerable to threats such as oil spills and marine debris due to the fact that ocean currents naturally tend to concentrate all of these things together in the same places. In turn, this concentrating effect can lead to marine life being exposed to oil and other pollutants for more extended periods of time and perhaps greater impacts.

However, protecting sargassum habitat isn’t impossible and it isn’t out of reach for most people. Some of the same things you might do to lower your impact on the planet—using less plastic, reducing your demand for oil, properly disposing of trash, discussing these issues with elected officials—can lead to fewer oil spills and less trash turning these magnificent islands of sargassum into floating islands of pollution.

And maybe protect a baby sea turtle or two along the way.

Source: What Happens When Oil Spills Meet Massive Islands of Seaweed?

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

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

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