Archive for July, 2014

Jul 31 2014

Climate data from air, land, sea and ice in 2013 reflect trends of a warming planet

Increases in temperature, sea level and CO2 observed; Southern Hemisphere warmth and Super Typhoon Haiyan among year’s most notable events

July 17, 2014

State of the Climate.

State of the Climate report.

In 2013, the vast majority of worldwide climate indicators—greenhouse gases, sea levels, global temperatures, etc.—continued to reflect trends of a warmer planet, according to the indicators assessed in the State of the Climate in 2013 report, released online today by the American Meteorological Society.

Scientists from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., served as the lead editors of the report, which was compiled by 425 scientists from 57 countries around the world (highlights, visuals, full report). It provides a detailed update on global climate indicators, notable weather events, and other data collected by environmental monitoring stations and instruments on air, land, sea, and ice.

“These findings reinforce what scientists for decades have observed: that our planet is becoming a warmer place,” said NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan, Ph.D. “This report provides the foundational information we need to develop tools and services for communities, business, and nations to prepare for, and build resilience to, the impacts of climate change.”

The report uses dozens of climate indicators to track patterns, changes, and trends of the global climate system, including greenhouse gases; temperatures throughout the atmosphere, ocean, and land; cloud cover; sea level; ocean salinity; sea ice extent; and snow cover. These indicators often reflect many thousands of measurements from multiple independent datasets. The report also details cases of unusual and extreme regional events, such as Super Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated portions of Southeast Asia in November 2013.


  • Greenhouse gases continued to climb: Major greenhouse gas concentrations, including carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide, continued to rise during 2013, once again reaching historic high values. Atmospheric CO2 concentrations increased by 2.8 ppm in 2013, reaching a global average of 395.3 ppm for the year. At the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, the daily concentration of CO2 exceeded 400 ppm on May 9 for the first time since measurements began at the site in 1958. This milestone follows observational sites in the Arctic that observed this CO2 threshold of 400 ppm in spring 2012.
  • Warm temperature trends continued near the Earth’s surface: Four major independent datasets show 2013 was among the warmest years on record, ranking between second and sixth depending upon the dataset used. In the Southern Hemisphere, Australia observed its warmest year on record, while Argentina had its second warmest and New Zealand its third warmest.
  • Sea surface temperatures increased: Four independent datasets indicate that the globally averaged sea surface temperature for 2013 was among the 10 warmest on record. El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO)-neutral conditions in the eastern central Pacific Ocean and a negative Pacific decadal oscillation pattern in the North Pacific had the largest impacts on the global sea surface temperature during the year. The North Pacific was record warm for 2013.
  • Sea level continued to rise: Global mean sea level continued to rise during 2013, on pace with a trend of 3.2 ± 0.4 mm per year over the past two decades.
  • The Arctic continued to warm; sea ice extent remained low: The Arctic observed its seventh warmest year since records began in the early 20th century. Record high temperatures were measured at 20-meter depth at permafrost stations in Alaska. Arctic sea ice extent was the sixth lowest since satellite observations began in 1979. All seven lowest sea ice extents on record have occurred in the past seven years.
  • Antarctic sea ice extent reached record high for second year in a row; South Pole station set record high temperature: The Antarctic maximum sea ice extent reached a record high of 7.56 million square miles on October 1. This is 0.7 percent higher than the previous record high extent of 7.51 million square miles that occurred in 2012 and 8.6 percent higher than the record low maximum sea ice extent of 6.96 million square miles that occurred in 1986. Near the end of the year, the South Pole had its highest annual temperature since records began in 1957.
  • Tropical cyclones near average overall / Historic Super Typhoon: The number of tropical cyclones during 2013 was slightly above average, with a total of 94 storms, in comparison to the 1981-2010 average of 89. The North Atlantic Basin had its quietest season since 1994. However, in the Western North Pacific Basin, Super Typhoon Haiyan – the deadliest cyclone of 2013 – had the highest wind speed ever assigned to a tropical cyclone, with one-minute sustained winds estimated to be 196 miles per hour.

State of the Climate in 2013 is the 24th edition in a peer-reviewed series published annually as a special supplement to the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. The journal makes the full report openly available online.

“State of the Climate is vital to documenting the world’s climate,” said Dr. Keith Seitter, AMS Executive Director. “AMS members in all parts of the world contribute to this NOAA-led effort to give the public a detailed scientific snapshot of what’s happening in our world and builds on prior reports we’ve published.”

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 FacebookTwitter, Instagram and our other social media channels.

Jul 29 2014

Squid skin protein could improve biomedical technologies, UCI study shows


Conductivity could charge up futuristic disease treatments

Irvine, Calif.  –The common pencil squid (Loliginidae) may hold the key to a new generation of medical technologies that could communicate more directly with the human body. UC Irvine materials science researchers have discovered that reflectin, a protein in the tentacled creature’s skin, can conduct positive electrical charges, or protons, making it a promising material for building biologically inspired devices.

Currently, products such as retinal implants, nerve stimulators and pacemakers rely on electrons – particles with negative charges – to transmit diagnosis data or to treat medical conditions. Living organisms use protons, with positive charges, or ions, which are atoms that contain both electrons and protons, to send such signals. The UCI discovery could lead to better ion- or proton-conducting materials: for instance, next-generation implants that could relay electrical messages to the nervous system to monitor or interfere with the progression of disease.

Alon Gorodetsky, assistant professor of chemical engineering & materials science at The Henry Samueli School of Engineering, led the research team. “Nature is really good at doing certain things that we sometimes find incredibly difficult,” he said. “Perhaps nature has already optimized reflectin to conduct protons, so we can learn from this protein and take advantage of natural design principles.”

He and his group have been studying reflectin to discern how it enables squid to change color and reflect light. They produced the squid protein in common bacteria and used it to make thin films on a silicon substrate. Via metal electrodes that contacted the film, the researchers observed the relationship between current and voltage under various conditions. Reflectin transported protons, they found, nearly as effectively as many of the best artificial materials.

Gorodetsky believes reflectin has several advantages for biological electronics. Because it’s a soft biomaterial, reflectin can conform to flexible surfaces, and it may be less likely to be rejected by the human body. In addition, protein engineering principles could be utilized to modify reflectin for very specific purposes and to allow the protein to decompose when no longer needed.

“We plan to use reflectin as a template for the development of improved ion- and proton-conducting materials,” Gorodetsky said. “We hope to evolve this protein for optimum functionality in specific devices – such as transistors used for interfacing with neural cells – similar to how proteins evolve for specific tasks in nature.”

The research is published in the July issue of Nature Chemistry. Co-authors are David Ordinario, Long Phan, Ward Walkup, Jonah-Micah Jocson, Emil Karshalev and Nina Husken of UCI.

About the University of California, Irvine: Located in coastal Orange County, near a thriving employment hub in one of the nation’s safest cities, UC Irvine was founded in 1965. One of only 62 members of the Association of American Universities, it’s ranked first among U.S. universities under 50 years old by the London-based Times Higher Education. The campus has produced three Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Currently under the leadership of Interim Chancellor Howard Gillman, UC Irvine has more than 28,000 students and offers 192 degree programs. It’s Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $4.3 billion annually to the local economy.

Media access: UC Irvine maintains an online directory of faculty available as experts to the media at Radio programs/stations may, for a fee, use an on-campus ISDN line to interview UC Irvine faculty and experts, subject to availability and university approval. For more UC Irvine news, visit Additional resources for journalists may be found at


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Jul 27 2014

What seafood guzzles the most gas?

CWPA note: California’s wetfish fisheries are the most efficient in the world (2,000 pounds of protein for 6 gallons of diesel).

Please download ‘Fishing Green‘ from our website — (under the Fast Facts link).


Fill 'er up. Trawling for tiger prawns can burn an enormous amount of fuel, but better management of the stock has increased efficiency.

© Australian Fisheries Management Authority

Fill ‘er up. Trawling for tiger prawns can burn an enormous amount of fuel, but better management of the stock has increased efficiency.

Most of us don’t think about fuel when we eat seafood. But diesel is the single largest expense for the fishing industry and its biggest source of greenhouse gases. Not all fish have the same carbon finprint, however, and a new study reveals which ones take the most fuel to catch.

Robert Parker, a Ph.D. student at the University of Tasmania, Hobart, in Australia, and Peter Tyedmers, an ecological economist at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada, analyzed more than 1600 records of fuel use by fishing fleets worldwide. They added up the fuel required to catch and bring various types of fish and seafood to port, which they reported online this month in Fish and Fisheries.

Parker and Tyedmers didn’t consider the energy required to process the catch and transport it to consumers, but other studies indicate this is usually a smaller fraction. Nor did they look at environmental impacts that depend on the type of fishing gear, such as habitat destruction and the accidental killing of turtles, birds, and dolphins.

Here’s the upshot, ranked by average amount of fuel required to land a metric ton:

7. Sardines: 71 liters

Abundant forage fish like these tend to school close to shore, and it’s fairly quick work to surround them with an enormous net. Icelandic herring and Peruvian anchovies are the least fuel-intensive industrial fisheries known, caught with just 8 liters of fuel per ton of fish.

6. Skipjack tuna: 434 liters

Like forage fish, these tuna and other kinds of open-water finfish are caught en masse in a net called a purse seine. But the vessels must travel farther to find the fish, hence the bigger gas bill.

5. Scallops: 525 liters

Bottom-dwelling mollusks are scooped up with heavy steel dredges.

4. North American salmon: 886 liters

Salmon are typically caught in rivers and bays with gill nets or purse seines. Catching them by hook and line takes more fuel.

3. Pacific albacore: 1612 liters

Trolling takes more fuel than using nets does. After dropping long lines with baited hooks, vessels race to keep up with the speedy predators.

2. Sole: 2827 liters

To catch flatfish, a boat drags a heavy metal beam across the sea floor with a net attached. This is hard work for the engines.

1. Shrimp and lobster: 2923 liters

Although it takes just 783 liters of fuel to fetch a ton of Maine lobsters from traps, Asian tiger prawns (a type of shrimp) from Australia required 7000 liters of fuel per ton in 2010, and Norway lobster from the North Sea has taken as much as 17,000. These two species are small and relatively scarce, so boats must pull a fine net for long distances.

How does wild seafood compare with other kinds of animal protein? The median fuel use in the fisheries is 639 liters per ton. In terms of climate impact, that’s equivalent to a bit more than 2 kilograms of carbon dioxide emitted for each kilogram of seafood landed. Chicken and farmed salmon and trout are roughly the same, but beef is significantly higher at 10 kg of carbon dioxide per kg of live animal. “If you’re looking at having a green diet, you want to transition away from beef,” Parker says.

One implication of the study is that a lot of fuel has been wasted due to mismanagement of fisheries. In past decades, government subsidies led to bigger and more powerful boats that could catch even more fish. But as stocks became depleted, crews had to fish longer and farther away from shore. Fuel use appears to have declined over the past decade. The most important factors in this decrease, Tyedmers and Parker say, are the recovery of fish stocks and the reduction in the size of fleets; the remaining vessels don’t have to travel as far.

Tyedmers and Parker are working with the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California to determine if fuel use can be incorporated into the Seafood Watch program, which evaluates the sustainability of fisheries. But people probably shouldn’t get too hung up on the fuel numbers, says Christopher Costello, an environmental economist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who wasn’t connected to the study. Fish consumption is a tiny part of the carbon footprint of most Americans—probably less than a half a percent of the carbon output of driving, he estimates. Still, Parker says that changing your diet, unlike changing your means of transportation, can be a relatively easy thing to do.


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Jul 24 2014

Some Inconvenient Truths about California Squid Marketing

On July 11 the Los Angeles Times carried an opinion editorial “The long journey of local seafood to your plate”, by author Paul Greenberg, who made a pitch for local seafood while lamenting the volume exported overseas.  Seafood News picked up the story, but with a twist.

Indeed, Greenberg could have dodged some critical misstatements, particularly about marketing California’s largest catch, market squid, if he had checked local sources, including the California Wetfish Producers Association, which represents the majority of squid processors and fishermen in the Golden State.  CWPA submitted the following op ed to the LA Times, to set the record straight.

First, here’s the story as it appeared in Seafood News:

Seafood News
Paul Greenberg makes case for locally caught fish while trashing global seafood supply chain

SEAFOODNEWS.COM [Los Angeles Times] by Paul Greenberg [Opinion]- July 11, 2014
Copyright 2014 The Los Angeles Times

Another glorious Golden State summer is upon us. San Joaquin Valley peaches are at their height and rolling in to farmers markets from Silver Lake to Mar Vista. Alice Waters’ foragers are plucking Napa zucchini blossoms for the chefs at Berkeley’s Chez Panisse. Barbecues in Sonoma are primed for grilling Niman Ranch grass-fed steaks.
And California squid are being caught, frozen, sent to China, unfrozen, processed, refrozen and sent back to the United States in giant 50,000-pound shipping containers.
That’s right: Every year, 90% of the 230 million pounds of California squid (by far the state’s largest seafood harvest) are sent on a 12,000-mile round-trip journey to processing plants in Asia and then sent back across the Pacific, sometimes to seaside restaurants situated alongside the very vessels that caught the squid in the first place.
Even as the locavore movement finds ever more inventive ways to reduce the distance between farm and table, the seafood industry is adding more and more food miles to your fish. And it’s not just squid. Overall a third of what is caught in American waters — about 3 billion pounds of seafood a year — is sold to foreigners. Some of those exports, such as California squid, wild Alaska salmon and tons and tons of Bering Sea pollock, make the round trip to Asia and back into our ports, twice frozen.
Why? To begin with, Americans want their seafood recipe-ready, and seafood distributors here don’t want to clean it. It’s messy, it takes time and, of course, it costs money. For many processors, the much lower labor costs in Asia make it less costly to pay for transporting squid to China and back than to clean it here.
Moreover, seafood processing plants are typically located close to the shore, which is exactly where well-heeled people like to build homes. Across the country, processing plants, oyster farms and canneries have been pushed out of their valuable shorefront locations by residents who didn’t want them next door. As a fisherman in Gloucester, Mass., told me recently: “Fish houses are getting turned into hotels all the time. But you never hear about a hotel getting turned into a fish house.”
So are we to let our seafood production infrastructure vanish entirely and watch dumbly as American fish and shellfish slip down the maw of the vast churning seafood machine of Asia? Moreover, do we really want to intermingle our food supply with the apparatus of China, a nation that is cruelly stingy with its labor force and that had such severe problems with food safety in 2007 that it executed the director of its food and drug administration for accepting bribes?
I would argue no.
And there are finally starting to be opportunities for keeping our seafood here — from net to table. In the last five years, dozens of community-supported fisheries, or CSFs, have been formed along U.S. coasts. Like community-supported agriculture co-ops, CSFs allow consumers to buy a share in the catch at the beginning of the season and receive regular allotments of guaranteed local seafood. CSFs help fishermen enormously by giving them start-up capital before they get out on the water. They also lock in a good price for fish that helps fishermen exit the ruthless price-crunching commodity market.
A few CSFs are even taking on squid. Alan Lovewell of Local Catch Monterey Bay CSF is collaborating with Del Mar Seafood of Watsonville to micro-process 1,000 pounds of squid for the Local Catch buying coop. This summer, for the first time, Local Catch members will get fully fresh (instead of double frozen) squid tubes and tentacles that make for fabulous grilling, stir-fries and Italian zuppa di pesce.
Yes, they’ll pay more for it. But if all Californians were to do it this way, economies of scale would prevail. It costs processors about $1.50 extra per pound to process squid here in America. Wouldn’t you be willing to pay that kind of premium to keep your squid fresh and out of China?
And even if you don’t have access to a CSF, there’s always the option of cleaning the squid yourself. Currently, the 10% of unprocessed squid that doesn’t go to China often gets used as bait. If you ask your fishmonger, you might be able to get some of that whole squid yourself. It’s really not that hard to clean it. And if you mess up the first time around, it’s not a big deal. Squid are actually incredibly cheap compared with most seafood, and it is high in omega-3s and minerals to boot.
The next time you fire up the backyard barbecue, consider buying a pound or two of California’s tentacled native seafood, getting out your knife and cutting board and experiencing squid as it’s meant to be eaten: fresh from the ocean and bursting with flavor.


And CWPA’s response:

Some Inconvenient Truths about California Squid Marketing
By D.B. Pleschner

In his op-ed to the Los Angeles Times last week, author Paul Greenberg could have dodged some critical misstatements and inaccuracies about the marketing of California squid – the state’s largest catch.

All he had to do was check with local sources, including the California Wetfish Producers Association, which represents the majority of squid processors and fishermen in the Golden State and promotes California squid.

Instead, Greenberg missed the boat on a number of issues, including the overall carbon footprint of seafood, but equally important, the reasons why most of the squid that California exports is consumed overseas!

To set the record straight, here are some inconvenient truths you wouldn’t know about squid by reading last week’s op-ed:

First, size matters and price rules when it comes to California market squid, which are one of the smallest of more than 300 squid species found worldwide. The U.S. “local” market really prefers larger, “meatier” squid, notwithstanding Greenberg’s ‘locavore’ movement.

Greenberg acknowledged the labor cost to produce cleaned squid in California adds at least $1.50 per pound to the end product. In fact, local production costs double the price of cleaned squid, due to both labor  (at least  $15 per hour with benefits) and super-sized overhead costs, including workers’ comp, electricity, water and myriad other costs of doing business in the Golden State.

Del Mar Seafood is one processor in California that micro-processes cleaned squid at the request of markets like the CSA that Greenberg mentioned. In fact, virtually all California squid processors do the same thing at the request of their customers. But at 1,000 pounds per order, we would need 236,000 CSAs, restaurants or retail markets paying $1.50 more per pound to account for the total harvest.  If the demand were there, we’d be filling it!

Greenberg also misconstrued the issue of food miles. Respected researchers like Dr. Peter Tyedmers, , from Dalhousie University in Canada, found that transport makes a minor contribution to overall greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, when considering the carbon footprint of seafood (or land-based foods). Mode of production is far more important.

Here’s another surprise:  California squid is one of the most efficient fisheries in the world – because a limited fleet harvests a lot of squid within a short distance of processing plants.

Studies show that the California wetfish fleet, including squid, can produce 2,000 pounds of protein for only 6 gallons of diesel. Squid are then flash frozen to preserve freshness and quality. Keep in mind that even with immaculate handling, fresh squid spoil in a few days.

As counterintuitive as it may seem, even with product block-frozen and ocean-shipped to Asia for processing, California’s squid fishery is one of the ‘greenest’ in the world. One recent survey estimated that about 30 percent of California squid is now either processed here or transshipped to Asia for processing (other Asian countries besides China now do the work) and re-imported.

China, although important, is only one export market that craves California squid.  With a growing middle class billions strong, Chinese consumers can now afford California squid themselves. Many countries that import California squid prefer the smaller size, and California squid goes to Mediterranean countries as well.  In short, most of the squid that California’s fishery exports is consumed overseas.  Why? The U.S. palate for squid pales in comparison to Asian and European demand.

Also important to understand: California squid is the economic driver of California’s wetfish industry – which produces more than 80 percent of the total seafood volume landed in the Golden State. California squid exports also represent close to 70 percent by weight and 44 percent of value of all California seafood exports. Our squid fishery contributes heavily to the Golden State’s fishing economy and also helps to offset a growing seafood trade imbalance.

The sad reality is that price really does matter and most California restaurants and retail markets are not willing to pay double for the same – or similar – small squid that they can purchase for half the price.

Nonetheless, we do appreciate Greenberg’s pitch for local seafood. Our local industry would be delighted if, as he suggested, all Californians would be willing to pay $1.50 a pound more for California squid.  We may be biased, but in our opinion California squid really is the best!

D.B. Pleschner is executive director of the California Wetfish Producers Association, a nonprofit dedicated to research and to promote sustainable wetfish resources.

Jul 15 2014

More Big Whales in Ocean Could Mean More Fish, Scientists Find

New study reveals how scientists and fisheries managers underestimated the massive mammals.


The return of large whales—such as sperm (pictured), blue, right, and gray—could help ocean fish populations recover.

Photograph by Stephen Frink, Corbis

Brian Clark Howard
National Geographic
Published July 10, 2014

Scientists and fisheries managers have long underestimated the valuable role large whales play in healthy ocean ecosystems, a new study suggests. And, scientists add, those commercial fishermen who complain that whales steal fish from their nets have it wrong.

An increase in the number of large whales—like blue, sperm, right, and gray—around the world could lead to a healthier ocean and more fish, a team of scientists report in a review study published this month in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

The underestimation occurred because “when oceanographic studies were started, large whales were largely absent from the ecosystem—because we had killed most of them,” says the study’s lead author, Joe Roman, a biologist at the University of Vermont in Burlington.

Large whales were heavily hunted until the 1970s. At that point an estimated 66 to 90 percent of the animals had been removed from ocean waters.

But since then, great whales have been slowly recovering. There are now more than a million sperm whales, and tens of thousands of gray whales.

Yet blue whales—the largest animal ever known to have lived on the planet—have been slower to rebound. In fact, they remain at about one percent of their historic range in the Southern Hemisphere. Roman says scientists think their absence may have altered the ecosystem in a way that made it harder for all life to survive there.

In recent years, as whale numbers have increased and technology has advanced—especially the ability to tag and track seafaring animals—we’ve begun to gain a better understanding of how important cetaceans are, says Roman.

“Whale Pumps and Conveyor Belts”

The scientists report that when whales feed, often at great depths, and then return to the surface to breathe, they mix up the water column. That spreads nutrients and microorganisms through different marine zones, which can lead to feeding bonanzas for other creatures. And the materials in whale urine and excrement, especially iron and nitrogen, serve as effective fertilizers for plankton.

Many great whales migrate long distances to mate, during which time they bring those nutrients with them. When they breed in far latitudes, they make important nutrient contributions to waters that are often poor in resources. Even their placentas can be rich sources of feedstocks for other organisms, says Roman, who calls whale migration a “conveyor belt” of nutrients around the ocean.

Whale deaths can be helpful too. When one of the massive mammals dies, its body sinks to the sea bottom, where it nourishes unique ecosystems of scavengers, from hagfishes to crabs to worms. Dozens of those scavenger species are found nowhere else, says Roman.

“Because [humans] took out so many whales, there were probably extinctions in the deep sea before we knew those [scavenger] species existed,” says Roman, who adds that he’s working on a new study to estimate how many of those scavenger species were lost.

Maddalena Bearzi, a marine biologist and president of the California-based Ocean Conservation Society who was not affiliated with the study, calls the paper “a great and interesting piece” that could help us better understand the role marine mammals play in the ocean ecosystem.

Fishers vs. Whales

For decades some commercial fishermen have complained that whales eat the fish that they’re trying to catch. Japan’s government has been particularly vocal, going as far as to say that whaling is necessary because “whales are threatening our fisheries.” (See “Japan’s Commercial Whaling Efforts Should Resume, Says Prime Minister.”)

Masayuki Komatsu, one of Japan’s international whaling negotiators, famously told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in 2001 that “there are too many” minke whales, calling them “the cockroach of the ocean.”

Roman disagrees.

“It’s far more complicated than that,” he says, referring to the whale pump and the conveyor belt. “Our new review points to several studies that show you have more fish in an ecosystem by having these large predators there.”

The next step, he says, is to conduct more field studies on those processes. That could help scientists better understand exactly how plankton and other organisms respond to the presence of whales.


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Jul 8 2014

Peru downplays El Nino chances, as waters begin to cool

Seafood News


According to Peru authorities, cooling sea temperatures are bringing back schools of anchovy.


Temperatures in the Eastern Tropical Pacific off Peru peaked in June, at 5.4 degrees F above average levels, but have since declined, and Peru authorities predict a return to normal temperatures by August, according to the State Committee monitoring El Nino.


“The possibility of us seeing an extraordinary Nino is ruled out,” said German Vasquez, the head of the committee.


Cold-water anchovy that swam south to escape warmer sea temperatures that arrived in April are making their way back now, Vasquez said.


“Anchovy are coming north,” Vasquez said. “There are already fish in the center of the country, but they’re still very close to the coast and not yet at their usual depth.”


Vasquez said sea temperatures off Peru’s coast could rise again slightly at the end of the year.


Such forecasts are also echoed by NOAA, that says there is a 70% chance of an El Nino beginning this summer, and an 80% chance of one beginning next winter.  However, the current El Nino index stands at .2, when a level of .5 generally indicates an El Nino is occuring.  In March and April these levels were reached, but since then temperatures have cooled.


NOAA says that a trough bringing lower than normal temperatures is partly responsible.

Photo Credit: Instituto del Mar del Peru


John Sackton, Editor And Publisher 1-781-861-1441
Email comments to

Copyright © 2014

Jul 8 2014

Unraveling the Mystery of the Great White Shark

Sharks have swarmed the media this summer and it’s not even Shark Week yet.

This undated photo provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows a great white shark encountered off the coast of Massachusetts. The white shark population has grown about 42 percent in the western North Atlantic Ocean since its predicted lowest point around 1990, according to a new study.

A great white shark swims off the coast of Massachusetts. Studies show the predators’ population is returning to the waters in great numbers.


When men are caught taking selfies with a great white shark right outside of New York City, you know something’s a little fishy.

Fisherman Steve Fernandez said he and his friends were not far from 116th Street when they caught a baby white shark. They took pictures before releasing it back into the water about a mile off Rockaway Beach June 22, Fernandez told the New York Post.

“As soon as we saw it, there’s no mistaking it. It’s basically a miniature version of the shark you seen in the movie ‘Jaws,’” he said.

This wasn’t the only great white shark caught swimming just a little too close to the Big Apple.

In another recent spotting, a photographer used a drone to film a young great white greeting paddle boarders in Manhattan Beach in June. But a recent study provides some insight into these occurrences: After years of decline, the great white shark population is finally on the rise.
The study, conducted by researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and published June 11 by PLOS ONE, analyzed shark records from 1800 to 2010 and found the abundance of great whites has increased about 42 percent in the northwest Atlantic Ocean since its predicted lowest point around 1990, according to lead author Tobey Curtis.

Curtis tells U.S. News researchers think there may be a white shark nursery in the waters off New York, which could explain why the city seems to be a hangout spot for young sharks. Conservation efforts are largely to thank for the predators’ return over the past couple of decades, he adds.

But while the great white shark population is rising, other shark populations are dropping, Curtis says. Their decline is partly due to lack of conservation efforts, but some species also fall victim to fisherman more easily than white sharks because they are less resilient. Larger white sharks are able to escape and survive nets and hooks more easily than other sharks, such as hammerheads, he says.

A separate study published by PLOS ONE in June suggests the great white shark population is also surging in California waters.

The recent research contradicted a previous study published in the journal Biology Letters suggesting there were only 219 mature and sub-adult white sharks in “central California” and only about 438 in the entire eastern North Pacific Ocean. After finding such low numbers, the researchers tried to get the sharks protected under the Endangered Species Act, which would help prevent the species from being traded, sold, captured or disrupted, according to the National Wildlife Federation.

The newest research published in PLOS ONE suggests there are actually 2,400 white sharks just in California waters, meaning that the species is not in danger of extinction.

“That we found these sharks are doing OK, better than OK, is a real positive in light of the fact that other shark populations are not necessarily doing as well,” George Burgess, director of the Florida Program for Shark Research and the study’s head author, told The Los Angeles Times.

This September 18, 2012, photo provided by OCEARCH shows scientists tagging a great white shark named Mary Lee off Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The shark was tracked south to the Florida coast but as of Thursday, January 31, 2013, was again off Long Island, N.Y. OCEARCH, a nonprofit group that studies sharks and other large marine species, says little is known about the migration patterns of great whites.

This September 18, 2012, photo provided by OCEARCH shows scientists tagging a great white shark named Mary Lee off Cape Cod, Mass.

Among the great white sharks dominating the waters is a 14-foot, 2,300-pound fish dubbed “Katharine” by the scientists who are tracking her, reported ABC News.

Greg Skomal, a program manager and senior biologist at the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, says Katharine is one of 39 great white sharks he and other researchers are watching in the Atlantic Ocean.

Sharks like Katharine, who was tagged off Cape Cod last August, provide critical information about great whites’ breeding habits so people can learn how to protect them, says Chris Fischer, another one of the scientists tracking her.

Skomal says they began the study in 2009 and for a while they believed they had figured out the sharks’ migratory pattern: In the summers, they moved north and in winters, back down south.

But some, like Katharine, have broken this rule: Instead of moving north this summer, Katharine traveled to the Gulf of Mexico. Skomal says roughly 25 percent to 30 percent of the great white sharks they are tracking have more complex behaviors and follow more dynamic movements than once thought.

But before Katharine starting heading toward Texas, another shark – not a great white – left its mark in Galveston. Tooth marks lined the upper part of 14-year-old Mikaela Medina’s back after a shark bit her on June 8. She didn’t feel the pain, she told KHOU-TV, but went to shore to have her mother take a look.

“I just felt like something bumped into my back,” she said.

One day later, a 16-year-old boy was reportedly bitten by a shark at Cape Henlopen State Park in Delaware.

According to the International Shark Attack File, directed by Burgess at the Florida Museum of Natural History, Texas and Delaware are not common states for shark attacks. Of the 47 unprovoked attacks in the U.S. last year, almost half occurred in Florida. Most of the others took place in Hawaii and South Carolina, according to the research.

Despite the odd locations of the attacks, Burgess says there seem to be fewer attacks worldwide this year compared to last year.

He says there have been 26 attacks so far this year, with two fatalities, one in South Africa and one in Australia. Sixteen of the attacks were in the U.S., with no fatalities. The ratio of attacks each year is low compared to the amount of times humans and sharks are near one another.

Humans and sharks are actually very close to each other on a regular basis, says Burgess.

“Certainly anyone whose spent any time in the sea, just recreationally in the surf zone, has been within 10 or 15 feet of a shark at some point in their lifetime,” he says.

At any given time, “hundreds or perhaps thousands” of people are that close to a shark, he adds.

In fact, statistics show that sharks have a lot more to fear than humans do.

Burgess says humans are killing about up to 37 million sharks per year, while sharks only kill around four or five humans each year. Most sharks are dying when fisheries aiming for another type of fish catch them by mistake and have to throw them overboard, he says.

However, Burgess warns that if people do not learn more about shark safety, the number of shark attacks on humans are sure to increase. Naturally, a larger population, increased tourism and water activities means more bites, even if the shark population remains the same, he says.

In this undated photo provided by the University of California, Davis, a white shark investigates a fake seal decoy used by UC Davis researchers in the Pacific Ocean near San Francisco. They are the most feared predator in the ocean, but the state of California thinks great white sharks might need a little protecting of their own. On Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013, the Fish and Game Commission will consider advancing the candidacy of the giant sharks to the California Endangered Species list.

A recent study shows the shark population is growing in California waters, contradicting previous research.

Humans are not a normal part of a shark’s diet, he says, but sharks can mistake people for fish in certain situations.

One way of avoiding an unexpected encounter is to stay in a group. Sharks, like other predators, look for the weak stragglers in the pack who linger behind, and tend to attack prey that looks to be alone, Burgess says.

And if your parents have ever told you not to take a midnight swim in the ocean, they were right. Sharks feed the most from dusk until dawn – and you don’t want to end up being a midnight snack.

The last bit of advice Burgess provides is to ditch your rings and bracelets before hitting the waves. To sharks, shiny jewelry can look like fish scales, reflecting light as you move in the water. Burgess urges people to remember that, when they enter the ocean, it’s like entering the wilderness. Most people don’t think about it, he says, but they are invading other species’ territory.

“Can you imagine walking into the Serengeti in your bikini, barefoot and not worrying about the big animals that can do you harm?” he asks.

Still, he adds, the ocean is a “pretty nice host.”

“Although we wander in their naked and stupid, most of us come out just fine,” he says.


Original story:

Jul 1 2014

Vampire squid spotted in Gulf of Mexico depths


Rare sighting of deep-water denizen, which does not actually feed on blood, is documented via remotely-operated vehicle

A group of scientists exploring the depths of Gulf of Mexico on Friday videotaped a rarely observed vampire squid.

Watch the video here.

The sighting was made via remotely-operated vehicle (ROV) and documented by the crew aboard EVNautilus. The footage (posted here) shows the vampire squid moving slowly, yet gracefully, in the gentle current.

Stated Nautilus Live on its Facebook page: “We had a surprise visit from a Vampire Squid last night, perfect timing for the end of #Cephalopod week. Check out this eerie video as it drifts into the cameras of the ROV Hercules. Beautiful!” 

According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which last month acquired one of these amazing critters, vampire squid are an ancient species that possess characteristics of a squid and an octopus.

vampiresquid.jpeg copy

Its Latin name, Vampyroteuthis infernalis, translates to “vampire squid from hell.”

Contrary to its name, however, the vampire squid does not feed on blood. Rather, it scavenges largely on marine snoworganic detritus falling through the water columnand decaying animal carcasses. The richly colored critter boasts incredibly large eyes and can turn itself inside out to escape predators.

Vampire squid are thought to reside at lightless depths between 2,000 and 3,000 feet.

Aside from the Gulf of Mexico, they’ve been observed in the Gulf of California (Sea of Cortez) and off Monterey Bay.

The EVNautilus is studying the impacts of oil and gas inputs into the Gulf of Mexico.

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