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The World’s Largest Ocean Cleanup Has Officially Begun -Trevor Nace

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Ambitious dreams have now become a reality as the Ocean Cleanup deploys its $20 million system designed to clean up the 1.8 trillion pieces of trash floating in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Check out another Forbes piece on how Ocean Cleanup aims to reuse and recycle the ocean plastic. The floating boom system was deployed on Saturday from San Francisco Bay and will undergo several weeks of testing before being hauled into action. The system was designed by the nonprofit Ocean Cleanup, which was founded in 2013 by 18-year-old Dutch inventor Boyan Slat. Their mission is to develop “advanced technologies to rid the world’s oceans of plastic…..

Read more: https://www.forbes.com/sites/trevornace/2018/09/10/the-worlds-largest-ocean-cleanup-has-officially-begun/#c5a9f622738c

 

 

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How Much of the Ocean Is Actually Fished – Ed Yong

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How much of the world’s oceans are affected by fishing? In February, a team of scientists led by David Kroodsma from the Global Fishing Watch published a paper that put the figure at 55 percent—an area four times larger than that covered by land-based agriculture. The paper was widely covered, with several outlets leading with the eye-popping stat that “half the world’s oceans [are] now fished industrially.”Ricardo Amoroso from the University of Washington had also been trying to track global fishing activity and when he saw the headlines, he felt that the 55 percent figure was wildly off. He and his colleagues re-analyzed the data that the Global Fishing Watch had made freely available…….

Read more: https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/09/wait-so-how-much-of-the-ocean-is-fished-again/569782/

 

 

 

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More Pollution Shows Up In New River, & This Time It’s Milky White – David Fleshler

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A few weeks ago, residents reported murky, “chocolate-milk color” water and an oily sheen on the river. Environmental inspectors for Broward County identified the source as a Fort Lauderdale street-improvement project at Southeast 2nd Street and Southeast 4th Avenue, where stormwater was being used under pressure and a pump was found to be leaking diesel fuel.

Source: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/broward/fort-lauderdale/fl-sb-new-river-pollution-20180829-story.html

 

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The Largest Migration on Earth Is Vertical – Candice Gaukel Andrews

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Every night on Earth, a great migration takes place. It’s bigger than the ones of caribou, wildebeest or zebras on land or Arctic terns in the air. But while this stupendous, nightly migration overshadows all the others, you’ve probably never heard of it. And even more surprising is the fact that it’s vertical.

This upright, mass movement rises from below: from the depths of the sea to the surface of the ocean. And while many of the animals on this journey are so tiny that they are invisible to the naked eye, they are as energetic as any. They swim upward as far as 1,500 feet each evening and then return the same distance in the morning, traveling tens of thousands of body lengths every day.

Why do they do it? Like most animals on migration, they do it to eat. But adding to the wondrous scope of this natural phenomenon—the human equivalent of walking 25 miles each way to get to and from breakfast—is that along their way, these animals are helping to sequester carbon dioxide, thus reversing some of the damaging CO2 emissions perpetrated by humans.

Each evening as the sun sets, an estimated five billion metric tons of sea life move from the bottom of our oceans to feast on microscopic plants that grow in the sunlight on the water surface. They ascend only in the darker hours to avoid predators that hunt by sight. Before dawn, these animals—roughly weighing as much as 17 million 747 airplanes—reverse course, sinking or swimming down to spend another day in darkness.

Most of these creatures are small, translucent crustaceans called copepods. But trillions of krill, jellyfish, shrimp, squid and other ocean residents join the voyage. Just one of the rising animals—the bioluminescent lantern fish, only six inches long—is abundant enough to outweigh the entire planet’s annual fisheries catch.

By eating the products of photosynthesis in the surface waters at night and swimming downward each day, the migrating animals potentially move a tremendous amount of carbon from the surface waters to the deep.

As a zooplankton consumes nutrients at the top and heads back down, it excretes a fecal pellet, which another individual slightly lower down consumes and excretes, and so on. The collective effect can move nutrients down from the surface as much as 53 percent faster than would happen by gravity alone, according to one recent study.

Beyond shuffling nutrients, the migration pumps carbon down, making it a critical player in carbon sequestration—and thus a boon to the climate. Similar to trees on land, microscopic plants at the ocean surface convert atmospheric carbon dioxide into organic matter. When migrating zooplankton consume this plant matter and carry it down, they sequester carbon in the depths, where it may remain for hundreds or thousands of years.

Remarkably, the vertical migration takes place even in the darkness of winter at the North Pole under several feet of ice that is covered with snow. In a 2016 study, researchers used acoustic devices moored to the sea bottom across the Arctic and found that zooplankton flee to the dark depths to escape the faint light of the rising moon.

The researchers were so doubtful that such minimal light could drive the migration that they implanted electrodes in the optic nerves of krill to measure the amount of light needed to elicit a response. They found that only a few photons were enough.

So although most of the individual migrators are minuscule, their staggering numbers mean that the amount of plant material they eat each night is enormous and makes up an important part in the global carbon cycle.

Ladders of longitude created by clouds of creatures

In 1942, a U.S. Navy research vessel, the USS Jasper, was testing new sonar technology off the coast of California when it reported sound waves being deflected from a mysterious, dense layer more than 1,000 feet below the surface. It stretched for more than 300 miles, leading researchers to think that it might be the seafloor itself. Other sonar pioneers soon found similar layers all across the Atlantic, Pacific and even in lakes worldwide. Yet exactly what the cloudlike layers were remained an enigma—and a peril for the Navy, which feared they could hide enemy submarines.

Three years later, a researcher from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, a department of the University of California, San Diego, used crude plankton nets to conduct nighttime surveys of marine life at various depths and became the first to report that the thick fogs were actually masses of living creatures.

Now termed the “deep scattering layer,” the DSL can be hundreds of feet thick and extend for hundreds of miles at various depths across the world’s oceans. En masse, these creatures resemble an almost endless cloud of drifting snow, yet they are spectacularly varied. Different species may prefer to hang out at different depths by day and night, or at different temperatures and salinity gradients. For some smaller creatures, such as copepods, seawater can seem viscous, making their migration feel like slogging through molasses.

In contrast, many bony fish species inflate their swim bladders for quick ballooning to the surface and then deflate them for a speedy descent. Some animals may travel only a few dozen feet on their expeditions, while others traverse several thousand feet. The result, researchers say, is less like a coordinated mass movement from the depths to the surface and back again and more like overlapping ladders of migration.

An unviewed vertical migration kept from vanishing

Unfortunately, the vertical migration is in jeopardy. If the Arctic becomes ice-free or if ice melt causes the ocean to become more stratified, it could alter the patterns of nutrient flow and carbon cycles, with unforeseen consequences. Plant life at the ocean surface, for instance, produces about 20 percent of the Earth’s oxygen—one in every five breaths we breathe.

In our other oceans, as commercial fishing decimates populations of larger fish, the tendency is to move down the food chain. Current commercial products that take advantage of the migration already include krill paste and lantern fish protein concentrate, mainly as feed for fish farms. Targeting the migration also takes food away from salmon, tuna and whales, possibly contributing to their starvation.

For now, this out-of-sight pageant goes on every night, following its ancient rhythms and continuing to shape the diversity and productivity of our oceans. But like so many other natural wonders on Earth, the vertical migration could disappear if we’re not vigilant.

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A Tale of Two Communities – People & Fish – Recovering from Harvey By Larry McKinney

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One year after Hurricane Harvey hammered the Texas coast, divergent pictures of recovery and resilience have emerged. The coastal marine communities of fish, shrimp and crabs that thrive along our Gulf coast, are dynamic, resilient and on the mend. The coastal human communities are also dynamic but their resilience is being challenged.

The coastal marine community has an important advantage over coastal human communities — millions of years of evolution driven by hurricanes. Hundreds of hurricanes have entered the Gulf of Mexico since we started keeping track of them, and the Coastal Bend has seen its share. The plants, animals and even the physical landscape of the coast are shaped by hurricanes. It’s survival of the fittest, as the animals so fundamental to ecosystem health — the shrimps, crabs and fish such as red drum and spotted seatrout — all have life cycles that respond well to hurricane-induced stress.

Hurricanes are the giant cement mixer: nutrients and sediments are resuspended, mixed up and flushed from inland reaches into bays and estuaries. Freshwater mingles with saltwater and vice versa. The physical environment also changes; some habitats, like oyster reefs and seagrass meadows, can be buried. Deep pockets scattered across otherwise shallow coastal flats fill in, new ones form, and as the hurricane passes, barrier island passes open and close.

Harvey was different from most hurricanes in that it hit the Texas coast twice. It stalled after landfall, hung around Victoria, then went back into the Gulf over San Antonio Bay, where it sucked up more water, heat and power, moved northeast and slammed into Houston, dumping unforeseen amounts of water over the metropolitan and neighboring areas. The result was really two storms: South Texas had to deal with wind, waves and storm surge, especially from the bayside, but northeast Texas had to deal with massive floods.

The combination of winds, storm surge, low salinity, and low dissolved oxygen had devastating effects on coastal habitats up and down the Texas coast. Floods dumped unprecedented freshwater carrying huge quantities of organics into bays, causing extensive hypoxia. Despite the stress, coastal habitats showed signs of recovery by spring 2018, followed by a genuine bloom through summer.

We saw a burst of new life, particularly in South Texas, as the bays filled with huge schools of juvenile fish. Spotted seatrout grew fat and lazy with so much bounty. Over the next several years the marine ecosystem, as well as anglers and seafood lovers, will reap that bounty. The renewal is reminiscent of a forest fire, which is initially devastating, but recovery brings back a boom of new life.

Our coastal communities also respond with immediacy to hurricanes. While we have not been around so long as the fish and shrimp, we have learned how to survive on the edge of the sea. Our abilities to predict a hurricane’s course and energy has increased impressively, and the emergency responses of coastal leaders and communities are nothing short of heroic. The rush to aid by all after Harvey was inspiring, renewing faith in our neighbors both near and far.

However, as Texas communities continue to recover, our human systems for social support, economic recovery and governance of public resources have faltered. This is particularly evident in South Texas, where we lack the capacity of large cities like Houston. Even there, some neighborhoods are failing to recover from this unprecedented natural disaster.

Our political leadership can muster funding, both short term and for the long haul, but when they leave the coast for their various seats of government and bureaucracy takes over, recovery efforts can break down. Judges, mayors, county commissioners and local leaders have their hands full meeting the immediate needs of their citizens. Adding another “job” to a long list simply does not work.

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The sheer complexity of recovery is mind-boggling. There are dozens of federal, state, philanthropic and private programs offering assistance. However, there is no one-stop shop spanning very different recovery issues. Tough issues persist, such as renters who lost housing; individuals struggling with mental health through recovery; communities trying to rebuild schools and bring back families that have moved away; small businesses that need a jumpstart to rebuild local economies on a shrinking tax base; and what to do when critical infrastructure is privately owned and does not qualify for federal assistance.

Acquiring the planning capacity needed to navigate this complexity while making sure communities are building back in a safer, more resilient way adds further burden. Even in a community like Rockport, which has invested in dedicated staff to address these issues, recovery will be hard-fought for years to come. For those communities that could not make such an investment, the road is hard indeed.

To build long-term resilience, we must better understand the complexities of recovery programs and resources; link them with coastal communities through careful planning that addresses future risks; and integrate these efforts with the environment of which we are a part.

Hurricanes are a reality of coastal life, and people are now part of that coastal ecosystem. If we are to live and thrive on our coastal margins we have understand and adapt to that reality and secure the capital needed to plan for our resilient future. We have a lot to learn from the fishes.

 

 

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Beer, Drinking Water And Fish & Tiny Plastic Is Everywhere – Christopher Joyce

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Plastic trash is littering the land and fouling rivers and oceans. But what we can see is only a small fraction of what’s out there. Since modern plastic was first mass-produced, 8 billion tons have been manufactured. And when it’s thrown away, it doesn’t just disappear. Much of it crumbles into small pieces.

Scientists call the tiny pieces “microplastics” and define them as objects smaller than 5 millimeters — about the size of one of the letters on a computer keyboard. Researchers started to pay serious attention to microplastics in the environment about 15 years ago. They’re in oceans, rivers and lakes. They’re also in soil. Recent research in Germany found that fertilizer made from composted household waste contains microplastics.

And, even more concerning, microplastics are in drinking water. In beer. In sea salt. In fish and shellfish. How microplastics get into animals is something of a mystery, and Chelsea Rochman is trying to solve it.

Rochman is an ecologist at the University of Toronto. She studies how plastic works its way into the food chain, from tiny plankton to fish larvae to fish, including fish we eat.

She says understanding how plastic gets into fish matters not just to the fish, but to us. “We eat fish that eat plastic,” she says. “Are there things that transfer to the tissue? Does the plastic itself transfer to the tissue? Do the chemicals associated with the plastic transfer to the tissue?”

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Rochman says she has always loved cleaning up. She remembers how, as a 6-year-old, she puzzled her parents by volunteering to clean the house.

In high school in Arizona she got even more ambitious. “I used to take my friends into the desert and clean up a mile of trash every Earth Day,” she says. “I remember finding weird old dolls and strange old toys that I thought were creepy, but that I would also keep.”

As a graduate student, she landed a spot on a research vessel to visit the infamous floating garbage patch in the Pacific Ocean. She and the other scientists on the trip were supposed to count the plastic as it drifted by.

She remembers the moment they sailed into the patch, “Everyone runs up to the bow and says, ‘There’s trash, there’s trash, everyone start counting the trash.’ And so we all start counting the trash.”

But something was wrong. “We’re looking and it’s, like, basically a soup of confetti, of tiny little plastic bits everywhere,” she remembers. “Everyone just stops counting. [They] sat there, their backs up against the wall and said, ‘OK, this is a real issue, [and it’s] not an island of trash you can pick up.”

To Rochman, a third thing was also clear: “The tiny stuff, for me as an ecologist, this is really getting into the food chain. You could spend a career studying this stuff.”So she did.

A world of plastic

A typical day for Rochman might start alongside sparkling Lake Ontario, where parks line the shore and joggers and picnickers enjoy the shoreline scenery. The lake, however, hides a mostly invisible menace.

To see it, Rochman’s student, Kennedy Bucci, brings us to an inlet that’s ankle-deep in washed-up debris. An apartment building looms overhead. They squat down, reach into the muck and quickly find what they’re looking for. “I’m digging and just finding more and more,” Rochman says. “Like whole bottle caps. This is insane.”

“It’s so ingrained in the soil,” says Bucci.

She comes here regularly to collect plastic for Rochman’s research. They work quickly, filling a jar with bits of plastic. Rochman, who’s not wearing gloves, inadvertently picks up something she wishes she hadn’t. “Oh!” she laughs, flinging it aside. “That’s why you’ve got gloves on,” she tells Bucci, and then gets right back to digging.

Since she started studying microplastics, Rochman has found them in the outflow from sewage treatment plants. And they’ve shown up in insects, worms, clams, fish and birds.

To study how that happens, Bucci makes her own microplastics from the morning’s collection. She takes a postage stamp-size piece of black plastic from the jar, and grinds it into particles using a coffee grinder. “So this is the plastic that I feed to the fish,” she says.

The plastic particles go into beakers of water containing fish larvae from fathead minnows, the test-animals of choice in marine toxicology. Tanks full of them line the walls of the lab.

Bucci uses a pipette to draw out a bunch of larvae that have already been exposed to these ground-up plastic particles. The larva’s gut is translucent. We can see right into it.

“You can see kind of a line of black, weirdly shaped black things,” she points out. “Those are the microplastics.” The larva has ingested them.

Rochman says microplastic particles can sicken or even kill larvae and fish in their experiments.

Plastic can also get into fish tissue, particularly plastic fibers from clothing such as fleece. Rochman found fleece fibers in fish from San Francisco Bay. She also looked in fish from Indonesia, a tropical country whose residents are not known for dressing in fleece. She found plastic in Indonesian fish guts, but no fibers, suggesting that fish bodies tell a story about what kind of plastic resides in local waters.

Rochman took this line of research a step further when she bought a washing machine for her lab and washed fleece clothing. Lots of plastic fibers came out in the filter she added to collect the wastewater. In fact, she has found microplastics floating in the air. “If you put a piece of double-sided sticky tape on a lab bench for an hour, you come back and it’s got four plastic fibers on it,” she says.

Resilient, durable and potentially dangerous

Most plastic is inert; it does not readily react chemically with other substances, and that’s one reason it has been so successful. Plastic is resilient, durable and doesn’t easily degrade. It’s a vital part of medical equipment and has revolutionized packaging, especially food storage.

But, over time, plastic can break down and shed the chemicals that make it useful, such as phthalates and bisphenol A. These substances are common in the environment and their effects on human health are of concern to public health scientists and advocates, but few large-scale, definitive studies have been done.

Plastic also attracts other chemicals in the water that latch onto it, including toxic industrial compounds like polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs. Plastic becomes a chemical Trojan horse.

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Tracking all those chemicals is researcher Clara Thaysen’s job.

“Right now we’re starting with the common types of plastic, so polyethylene, polypropylene [and] polystyrene,” she explains.

“But, there’s…” she pauses and sighs. “There’s tons.” Plastic comes in many forms, with a wide variety of chemical additives depending on how the plastic is used. What happens to plastic over decades just hasn’t been studied deeply.

“This happens all the time,” says Thaysen. “We invent something that seems really great and … we don’t think and we become so dependent on it.”

Rochman notes that this kind of research is relatively new; most of the environmental studies on microplastics have come out within the past 10 years.

“The things we don’t know,” she says, are daunting. “What are all the sources where it’s coming from, so that we can think about where to turn it off? And once it gets in the ocean, where does it go? Which is super-important because then we can understand how it impacts wildlife and humans.”

She says she’s ready to spend the rest of her career finding out.

 

 

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Hundreds of Sea Potatoes Cover Penzance Beach – BBC News

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The small heart-shaped orbs were sea potatoes, a sea urchin that lives buried in sandy and muddy sea beds all around UK coasts.

Rosie Hendricks was on the beach at Wherrytown in Penzance earlier with her daughter, sister and nephew when she spotted the “odd-looking” creatures.

Ms Hendricks, from Penzance, who had never seen anything like it before, said: “I wasn’t sure what they were.”

There was a similar mass-stranding of the urchins on nearby Long Rock beach in 2016.

The appearance of the tennis ball-sized animals baffled beachgoers but Plymouth University professor Martin Attrill said mass strandings of sea potatoes were “not unusual”.

Ms Hendricks said she was aware that a number of urchins had washed up in nearby Longrock two years ago.

She said it “must be the time of year.According to the Cornwall Wildlife Trust, the sea potato, which is also known as a heart urchin, lives buried in up to 15cm of sand or muddy sediment.

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It is the dead animal which often washes up as a brittle, white shell minus the yellow-brown spines.

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