September 20, 2023

5 essential articles on invasive species, overfishing and other threats to marine life

Vissen in een kelpbos bij het eiland San Benito, Mexico.  <a href=Photo by Reinhard Dirscherl/ullstein bild via Getty Images” src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTcwNTtoPTQ2OQ–/ 5e19721970d5eb55a” data src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTcwNTtoPTQ2OQ–/ e19721970d5eb55a”/>

Humans depend on the ocean for many things, including food, jobs, recreation and stabilization of the Earth’s climate. But while the ocean’s resources may seem infinite, human effects such as pollution, overfishing and climate change are creating what United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has called an “ocean emergency.” Climate change is pushing ocean temperatures to record levels, many fisheries are being overfished and plastic waste is accumulating in the deep sea.

These five articles from the archive of The Conversation highlight pressing challenges to ocean conservation and describe what researchers are doing to come up with effective responses.

1. A devastating invasion spreads

Invasive lionfish are aggressive predators, native to the Indo-Pacific Ocean, that feed on smaller reef fish. They have wreaked havoc in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico since they first appeared in the Atlantic in 1985. Now they have spread south to Brazil, which has many rare endemic fish species and is lagging behind in responding.

“As one of many Brazilian scientists who have repeatedly warned of a possible lionfish invasion over the past decade, I am disheartened that my country has missed the moment to take early action,” wrote marine scientist Osmar J. Luiz of the Charles Darwin University. “However, now marine researchers and local communities are stepping up.”

Koraalduivels hebben giftige stekels die hen beschermen tegen roofdieren.  <a href=Florida Fish and Wildlife, CC BY-ND” data-src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTcwNTtoPTQ3MQ–/ 3b061b5fb0c84bafd4″/>

An important monitoring strategy was to create an interactive dashboard where anyone can report lionfish sightings. Other steps likely include environmental education, organized culls and genetic testing to identify different lionfish populations and see where they go. With a similar lionfish invasion in the Mediterranean, there is an urgent need for effective responses.

Read more: Invasive lionfish have spread south to Brazil from the Caribbean, threatening ecosystems and livelihoods

2. Reclaiming the seabed entails ecological risks

One of the ocean’s potentially most valuable resources has yet to be tapped, but that could change.

Scattered over large areas of the ocean floor, manganese nodules — chunks that look like cobblestones — contain rich deposits of nickel, copper, cobalt and other metals that are new in demand for the production of batteries and renewable energy components.

“There is now fierce debate as a Canadian company plans to launch the first commercial deep-sea mining operation in the Pacific,” warned Indiana University scholars Scott Shackelford, Christiana Ochoa, David Bosco and Kerry Krutilla.

Less than 10% of the deep sea floor has been thoroughly mapped and most of the life forms discovered there have never been seen before. Collecting material from the ocean floor could harm these species, for example by burying them in sediments. “We believe it would be prudent to better understand this existing, fragile ecosystem before rushing to mine it,” the authors conclude.

Read more: Deep-sea mining plans pit renewable energy demand against ocean life in largely unexplored area

3. Illegal fishing is common and difficult to detect

Illegal fishing – catching too many fish or harvesting endangered species – causes economic losses estimated at $10 to $25 billion a year. It is also associated with human rights violations, such as forced labor and human trafficking. But it’s easy to do these activities out of sight on the high seas.

By observing when and where fishing boats deploy their location transponders at sea, academic and non-governmental researchers showed that these silences can be an important signal.

“Vessels often went after dark on the high seas edge of exclusive economic zone boundaries, which can obscure illegal fishing in unauthorized locations,” wrote Heather Welch, a researcher in ecosystem dynamics at the University of California, Santa Cruz. .

Ships can also turn off their transponders to evade pirates or lure competitors to rich fishing spots, so making turning off their signals illegal is not a practical strategy. But more analysis of where boats go after dark could help governments target inspections and patrols, reducing crime at sea.

Read more: When fishing boats go dark at sea, they often commit crimes – we’ve m
apped out where it happens

4. Scientists design an ‘internet of the ocean’

Just as there are countless life forms in the ocean that have yet to be discovered, there are also many unanswered questions about its physical processes. For example, scientists know that the ocean takes carbon from the atmosphere and carries it to deep waters, where it can be stored for long periods of time. But they don’t know how biological and chemical shifts affect this carbon cycle process.

Scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts are designing a monitoring system called the Ocean Vital Signs Network that could make it possible to test strategies to store more carbon in the ocean and track how well they’re working. They envision “a vast network of moorings and sensors providing 4D eyes on the oceans — the fourth dimension is time — always on, always connected to monitor these carbon cycle processes and the health of the ocean,” WHOI wrote. director Peter de Menocal, a marine geologist and paleoclimatologist.

The network would include intelligent gliders and autonomous vehicles that can collect data and then dock, re-power and upload. It would also use sensors and acoustic transceivers to monitor dark, hidden corners of the ocean where carbon is stored. “This network enables observation for making decisions that will affect future generations,” de Menocal wrote.

Read more: Scientists envision an ‘internet of the ocean’, with sensors and autonomous vehicles that can explore the deep sea and monitor vital signs

5. Plastic waste from the ocean has a message for people

In recent decades, plastic pollution has become one of the world’s more widespread environmental crises. Every year, millions of tons of plastic waste end up in the ocean, killing marine animals, suffocating ecosystems and threatening human health.

Pam Longobardi, an art professor at Georgia State University, grew up in New Jersey, where her father brought home plastic trinkets from his job at the Union Carbide chemical company. Today, Longobardi collects plastic waste from coastlines around the world and sculpts it into large-scale installations that are both eye-catching and alarming.

'Albatross' en 'Hope Floats', 2017. Teruggevonden oceaanplastic, reddingsdekens, reddingsvestriemen en staal.  Pam Longobardi, <a href=CC BY-ND” data-src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTcwNTtoPTQ3MA–/ 47f416d0a0759a99c95″ />
‘Albatross’ and ‘Hope Floats’, 2017. Recovered ocean plastic, life blankets, life jacket straps and steel. Pam Longobardi, CC BY-ND

“I see plastic as a zombie material that haunts the ocean,” Longobardi wrote. “I am particularly interested in ocean plastic because of what it reveals about us as humans in a global culture, and about the ocean as a cultural space and a giant dynamic engine of life and change. Because ocean plastic visibly shows nature’s attempts to reabsorb and regurgitate it, it has profound stories to tell.”

Read more: My art uses plastic reclaimed from beaches around the world to understand how our consumer society is transforming the ocean

Editor’s Note: This story is a collection of articles from the archives of The Conversation.

This article was republished on The Conversation, an independent, not-for-profit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts. If you found it interesting, you can subscribe to our weekly newsletter.

It was written by: Jennifer Weeks, The conversation.

Read more:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *