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MarineBio Newsletter 12

MarineBio is pleased to bring you the 12th edition of our newsletter! We know, it's been awhile, but as you can see, we've been busy with a redesign of MarineBio.org, which we hope you like. This edition of the MarineBio newsletter is jampacked with news, information, and recommendations you can use, so we hope you enjoy it.

We welcome your feedback and would love to hear what you'd like to see in future newsletters! Send your comments to: Joni@marinebio.org.

What's New @ MarineBio?


Featured Species: Leatherback sea turtles!


In celebration of our partnership with Save our Leatherbacks Operation (SOLO) we're featuring the amazing leatherback sea turtle as this issue's featured species.

The leatherback sea turtle is the only remaining species of the Dermochelidae family; they are the longest surviving reptile on Earth! They live between 30 to 150 years — maybe longer, and during the Jurassic period, populations numbered in the tens of millions. Dinosaurs perished in the ice ages; but the hearty leatherbacks adapted and survived. Unfortunately, survival of the leatherbacks has not been as successful facing their biggest threat: humans.

As the surviving species from some 250 similar species and 12 related families of turtles, the leatherback is the largest marine turtle in the world and perhaps, by weight, the largest reptile. Adult female leatherbacks are about 6 feet in length; 3 feet thick and up to 9 feet wide including the flippers. Females average 1,000 pounds in weight. Adult male leatherbacks are considerably larger, up to 9 feet in length and over 2,000 pounds. During its lifespan, leatherbacks will increase their weight 10,000 to 20,000 times depending on the sex.

Sexual maturity is reached between 15 and 20 years after hatching. Females mate with a different male each nesting season to ensure a better distribution of the fragile gene pool to increase the survival of this species. Females return to specific nesting beaches every 3-5 years to lay eggs under about 4 feet of warm tropical sand. The hatchlings weigh about 1.5 ounces at birth and measure about 4 inches long. The nesting impulse drives females across the Pacific Ocean along a semi-circular route from California/Central America to the remote beaches in Irian Jaya, Indonesia.

The Eastern Pacific leatherbacks forage and travel up and down the Central American coast. Leatherbacks are the most pelagic (open sea) of any turtle species. Leatherbacks feed in the open ocean, rather than on reefs as most other turtle species. Male leatherbacks spend their entire life at sea and only come ashore if they are injured or about to die.

Leatherbacks do not have a hard shell like other sea turtle species. The name “leatherback” is thought to have been derived from its soft leathery skin, which is very soft to the touch. There are 7 longitudinal ridges on the back. Leatherbacks are a dark gray to black color with mottled white spots, which can be used to identify individuals. Their soft, flexible skin helps them dive quite deep (over 3,000 feet) in search of food; their expandable soft shell allows for a greater lung capacity allowing them to dive to deeper depths than any other sea turtle.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) satellite tracking has established leatherbacks as the marine species with the longest migration, even longer than the whales. Leatherbacks in the Pacific family have been observed (by satellite) foraging from the warm beaches of Indonesia to the cold waters off California and as far North as Alaska; from latitudes of 71 degrees North to 47 degrees South.

There are two principle groups of leatherbacks: the Atlantic and the Pacific groups. Each group touches all the shore lines of every continent as they migrate to feed on squid, jellyfish, tunicates (sea squirts, salps, and pyrosomas) and other soft marine creatures. Unfortunately, the leatherback families that once inhabited the Indian Ocean have all but disappeared since 1990. They were last seen in Sri Lankan waters in 1994 and off Malaysia in 2005.

Female leatherbacks come ashore at night during high tide to lay eggs during nesting season. She hauls her enormous bulk up the beach from the shore and digs her nest with her back flippers. She lays approximately 100 eggs at each nesting; although hatch rates are low, and few hatchlings survive to due predation and human consumption. Once her eggs are deposited, she covers them with sand and pats them firm. Then, following her remarkable and mysterious instincts, she returns to the sea during low tide.

Hatchlings journey down to the sea and swim for about six days and nights before they begin to feed. It is during this time in their infancy that their internal guidance system is activated and imprints the place where they were born. With this they are equipped to navigate across the entire width of the Pacific Ocean! The awareness is automatic in this species and is thought to be related to the earth's magnetic field. Once they begin to feed, they consume jellyfish in weights that parallel theirs giving them the energy required to swim constantly. Jellyfish provide a full supply of vitamins and minerals for turtles.

This amazing species is in great danger of extinction. Unhatched eggs are in high demand. Coastal development and disorientation of hatchlings by beachfront lighting prevents them from finding the sea. Eggs are hunted and consumed by predators, and pollution and watercraft strikes have also impacted the survival of the leatherbacks. SOLO is working to protect the nesting beaches of the leatherback by educating the local communities about the plight of leatherbacks and by providing them with boats and other materials to patrol the beaches to protect eggs from predators such as dogs and wild pigs. SOLO's efforts are therefore sustainable and build capacity within the community to protect one of its most valuable assets.

We look forward to joining one of the leatherback expeditions in the future. And THANKS to SOLO founder Larry McKenna for the recent donation to MarineBio! We appreciate your generosity and applaud SOLO's efforts!

Marine Conservation in the News


MarineBio Recommends


To Follow the Water This thought-provoking book by Dallas Murphy is not only entertaining to read, it makes the role of the ocean in regulating climate easily understandable to the lay person. This topic has been largely ignored by climate change yea-sayers and nay-sayers both, but the ocean's contribution to climate regulation is a critical issue in the global warming debate. Though this is a serious topic, Dallas Murphy entertains us by first describing the ocean's role from a historical perspective by tracing the first discoveries of ocean dynamics by oceanographers. Then, Murphy moves into the modern day by bringing the reader aboard three oceanographic expeditions to further educate us on the relationship between the ocean and climate. From the introduction:

"...a concept of climate that ignores the ocean makes no more sense than one that excludes the air. Flowing great distances, like global blood vessels, ocean currents stabilize our climate by transporting heat from where there is too much to where there is too little. One reason why the ocean has been left out of the climate-change discussion is that its internal mechanisms and its interaction with the atmosphere are stunningly complex. That the ocean has been left out has helped pitch the discussion toward unproductive, distracting extremes—either global warming is bunk or sea levels are about to rise twenty feet—and to frame the issue as if it were a matter of opinion, like the place of prayer in public schools."

We agree. It's not a matter of opinion. It's fact. And we all need to understand why. We recommend this book because Murphy takes the stunningly complex role of the ocean in climate change and makes it accessible and more easily understood. For what could have been a very dry (pardon the pun) topic - this book is a fast-paced and enjoyable read. A MarineBio "must-have" for every ocean lover's library.

And for you sailors out there, Murphy's Rounding the Horn is a rip-roaring good read about his adventure exploring Cape Horn aboard a 53-foot sloop. Cape Horn is the southernmost point in South America in the Tierra del Fuego archipelago. You'll learn about the history of the region, its crazy unstable weather, and the wonderful critters to be found there. You can't miss with a subtitle like this one: "Being a Story of Williwaws and Windjammers, Drake, Darwin, Murdered Missionaries and Naked Natives—a Deck's-Eye View of Cape Horn."

Reef by Scubazoo from DK Publishing Between the pages of this beautiful book lays a unique pictorial celebration of the world's reefs. Corals, sponges, mollusks, and fishes are all captured in this vivid collection of photographs from underwater photography collective Scubazoo. The book includes captions that identify plant and animal life along with additional background information. Photographic narratives demonstrate how reefs live and die and how creatures depend on these valuable ecosystems.

No Fish in my Dish This book by Jason Kelly was inspired by a visit to the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo where he was amazed at how many fish were processed in a single day. He asked himself, "How many fish can there be in the ocean?" and decided to check. Not enough, it turns out. He decided that the fish wouldn't last forever considering the combination of population growth, decline in fish stocks, and improved fishing technologies. He also decided that the world didn't need another in-depth book on overfishing, so he wrote one that he hopes will be embraced by all. You can read the book here, but we encourage you to purchase copies to share with others.

Scuba dic: An Underwater Adventure Dictionary This book by Zaid Fadul is a great tool for scuba divers and others who want to learn how to identify and know more about tropical marine species. It's waterproof, compact, and you can hook it to a retractable clip for your BC! Well, that's not actually best of all. Scuba dic profiles 40 common species of fish, invertebrates, plants and corals with beautiful photos that show details of the species' features as well as behaviors to look for. Details include where to find each species, the best time to find them, and fast facts about each animal. The book also features conservation information and photographic tips. You'll be able to easily update your logbook with accurate identification and descriptions of the marine life you observe. Fadul developed Scuba dic to help divers get more out of their dives. The book is also a great tool to teach divers to appreciate marine life, which in turn teaches the need for marine conservation. More importantly, divers will learn how to interact with it in a healthy manner—both for the marine life and for divers. Scuba dic is fun, educational, and useful. And the photography, all original by Fadul, is simply beautiful.

Whales and Seals: Biology and Ecology This book by Pierre-Henry Fontaine is a fascinating look at the biology and ecology of whales and seals. Not for the squeamish, the book has an abundance of color photographs depicting all aspects of whale and seal biology from morphology to anatomy, dentition, habitat, behavior, etc. The photos alone make this an excellent resource, but there is also a wealth of information on whales and seals. The book describes environmental adaptations, human impact on whales and seals, communication and echolocation, parasites, paleontology, and fact sheets for whale and seal species. Our only complaint is that the book lacks an index although it is very well organized. Highly recommended!

Tuna: A love story This is an important new book by MarineBio favored author and illustrator, Richard Ellis. In Ellis' new book about the plight of bluefin tuna, he describes how the insatiable appetite for tuna sashimi of the Japanese and, increasingly, of upscale restaurants worldwide, is decimating this species. In addition, the violation of fishing regulations is to blame for the near-extinction of the bluefin. Are tuna farms the answer? According to Ellis, no. Because the bluefin must be fed fish, which further contributes to overfishing, and the large volumes of waste from the pens pollutes the marine environment. And, as often happens with farmed seafood, the quality is lower. Given the Japanese penchant for all things rare and status-raising, farming will do nothing but encourage further overfishing of wild bluefin populations.

Sustainable Seafood Posters: Ocean and seafood lovers unite and spread the word. There is such a thing as sustainable seafood. And organizations such as SeaWeb's Seafood Choices Alliance and Charting Nature are here to tell you all about it.

Charting Nature donated 100 copies of their informative and beautiful Seafood Guide posters. The posters are available in fish or shellfish and come in two sizes 12 x 36 inches or 24 x 36 inches. The beautifully illustrated posters are designed to help consumers choose sustainable seafood. The posters were illustrated by renowned artist Brenda Guild Gillespie and the informative content was compiled by the Seafood Choices Alliance. These posters are not only packed with information, they are works of art that would be beautiful in any kitchen—home or commercial.

It's exciting to know that chefs are beginning to recognize the importance of sustainable seafood, but they'll be more encouraged to refrain from buying non-sustainable seafood—bluefin tuna for example—if diners go into their restaurants armed with information. And what better way to keep yourself informed than to gaze at gorgeous illustrations of the seafood that you love?

The fish poster is illustrated with drawings of: Alaska Pollock, Albacore Tuna, Arctic Char, Atlantic Herring, Atlantic Mackerel, Black Sea Bass, Bluefish, Catfish (Farmed), Chinook (King) Salmon, Chum (Dog or Keta) Salmon, Coho (Silver) Salmon, Croaker, Haddock, Mahi-mahi (common dolphinfish), Pacific Cod, Pacific Halibut, Pacific Sanddab, Pacific Sole, Pink (Humpback) Salmon, Sablefish (Black Cod), Pacific Sardines, Sockeye (Red) Salmon, Striped Bass (Rockfish), Summer Flounder (Fluke), Tilapia U.S. (Farmed), Wahoo (Ono), Weakfish, White Sea Bass, White Sturgeon (Farmed), Wreckfish, and Yellowfin Tuna (Ahi). There is also information each species' range, seasons, harvesting methods, cooking and buying tips.

The shellfish poster is illustrated with drawings of: Abalone, Bay and Sea Scallops, Blue Crab, Clams, Crawfish, Dungeness Crab, King Crab, Mussels (Farmed), Northern Pink Shrimp, Oregon Pink Shrimp, Oysters (Farmed), Rock Crab and Jonah Crab, Shrimp (U.S. Farmed), Snow Crab, Spiny Lobster, Spot Prawns (Trap Caught), Squid (aka Calamari) and Stone Crab. We believe that overfishing is one of the greatest threats to ocean health. But we understand that seafood is an important source of protein and a well-established industry important to the economic-well being of a number of people and regions. The best way to find a happy medium is to be an informed consumer and know which species are sustainable and which ones aren't.

Selected abstracts of recent scientific publications


Integrating customary management into marine conservation: In many parts of the world, there is an increasing interest among scientists, managers, and communities in merging long-enduring customary practices such as taboos that limit resource use with contemporary resource management initiatives. Here, we synthesize the literature on the customary management of coral reefs emerging from diverse disciplines including anthropology, common property economics, and ecology.

Monitoring and conservation of critically reduced marine turtle nesting populations: lessons from the Cayman Islands Historically, nesting marine turtles were abundant in the Cayman Islands and were an integral part of the economy and culture. Today, nesting of loggerhead, Caretta caretta, and green turtles, Chelonia mydas, takes place at very low levels. Hawksbill sea turtles, Eretmochelys imbricata, nesting has not been recorded since 1999. The authors overview highly-detailed monitoring data gathered over a 6-year period allowing insight into the magnitude and spatial and temporal patterns of marine turtle nesting, cost-effectiveness of monitoring such reduced populations, impacts of development on reproductive success and current threats to the recovery of the population.

Partnerships for tropical conservation Achieving effective conservation in the tropics is a global concern but implicates local people. Despite considerable rhetoric about local participation the vast majority of conservation initiatives continue to be devised and controlled by a small group of powerful, external voices. What is widely overlooked is that local people often have positive conservation goals and preferences. These overlap with global values and create a strong precedent for practice, providing the basis for strategic alliances with conservation agencies. Local people can be part of a solution, rather than of the problem, if they are given the opportunity. While as yet unfamiliar to many conservationists, partnerships with local people are working in other natural resource sectors (water, commercial forestry). Strong partnerships entail shared decision making, shared risks and a balance of rights and responsibilities between external conservation agencies and local interest groups. Partnerships are no panacea, but a real commitment to partnership offers conservation outcomes that are more ethical and often more practicable than current models.

The impacts of climate change on marine mammals: early signs of significant problems In many parts of the world, there is increasing interest among scientists, managers, and communities in merging long-enduring customary practices such as taboos that limit resource use with contemporary resource management initiatives. Here, we synthesize the literature on the customary management of coral reefs emerging from diverse disciplines including anthropology, common property economics, and ecology. First, we review various customary management strategies and draw parallels with Western fisheries management. Secondly, we examine customary resource management and conservation. We argue that, while resource conservation often appears to be an unintended by-product of other social processes, customary management can, in fact, conserve marine resources. In the third section, we examine the resilience of customary management institutions to socioeconomic transformations.

Conserving What and for Whom? Why Conservation Should Help Meet Basic Human Needs in the Tropics For hundreds of millions of people, biodiversity is about eating, staying healthy, and finding shelter. Meeting basic human needs should receive greater priority in the conservation agenda. Wild and semi-wild plants and animals contribute significantly to nutrition, health care, income, and culture in developing countries, and the poorest and most vulnerable people often rely on those resources most. Depleting those resources or making them inaccessible can impoverish these people even further. ‘Pro-poor conservation’—that is, conservation that aims to support low income economies—explicitly seeks to address basic human needs. Such an emphasis has many potential synergies with more conventional conservation goals. Nonetheless, pro-poor conservation requires a distinct attitude to gauging conservation outcomes and a different approach to conservation science. Biologists can make a vital contribution.

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