Some scientists believe there may be too many whales for the population to sustain itself. Others say this explanation of “overcapacity” and “natural causes” overlooks the gantlet of hazards that grays now face — including ecosystem alteration, ship strikes, entanglement in fishing gear, plastics pollution, disease, ocean acidification and loss of kelp forests.
Studies show that a shutdown of the Atlantic Ocean’s circulating system could bring extreme cold to Europe and North America, raise sea levels on the U.S. East Coast and disrupt monsoons that provide water to much of the world.
Vincent Saba, a fisheries researcher with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center, said he’s worked on related studies showing that weakening of the Gulf Stream system leads to regional warming of the waters along the continental shelf of Northeastern North America, prime grounds for commercial and recreational fishing.
The phenomenon of a patch of abnormally warm water off the west coast of North America gained notoriety in 2014, when the first such “Blob” was spotted and given that name, after the horror movie creature that devoured everything in its path. That first Blob lasted years, from 2013 to 2016. It has been blamed for slicing some forage fish populations in half; starving seabirds; triggering a collapse in cod; shifting tuna as far north as Alaska; pushing whales into the path of crab fishing lines and ships; and allowing exotics, including glowing tropical sea pickles, to arrive in northern waters.
Balmy temperatures can lead to conditions perfect for the spread of infectious diseases, Sanderson said. When sea ice melts too early in the season, seal pups must enter the water before they are ready to be weaned, leaving them weaker and more vulnerable to disease. Vanishing sea ice also means that seals and sea lions in cold regions will have less space to emerge from the water to rest, breed, or escape predators, forcing them to crowd more tightly together.
The report makes clear that to protect the ocean, we must first reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. But we must also reduce ocean stress, caused by overfishing and pollution, so the ocean is healthy enough to weather the changes already underway.
“The bottom line is that we need the ocean. And right now, the ocean needs us,” said Julie Packard, executive director of the Aquarium. “It’s not too late to take courageous climate action and safeguard the ocean from further damage.”
In a study published Wednesday in the journal PLOS ONE, a group of scientists from various state and federal agencies, universities and bird rescue organizations documented the die-off and concluded from the data that it was caused by a record-breaking ocean heat wave in 2014 through 2016 that triggered systemic changes throughout the ocean ecosystem.
This loss of oxygen in the ocean is significant enough to affect the planetary cycling of elements such as nitrogen and phosphorous which are, “essential for life on Earth,” Dr. Laffoley said.
As the amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide continues to rise, our oceans are playing an increasingly important role in absorbing some of this excess. In fact, it was reported recently that the global ocean annually draws down about a third… Read More ›