Ho, ho, ho! Look who’s coming to town … it’s the bearded seal!

The rather short snout with thick, long, white whiskers gives this true seal it’s appropriate common name. The bearded seal (Erignathus barbatus) can be as long 8 feet and weigh up to 800 pounds. I guess now we know what idiom they use under the sea instead of “the 800 pound gorilla in the room …”. These seals tend not to be seen in packs like their more social counterparts we view along harbors.

Bearded seals spend most of their lives in the Arctic waters, although one was recently found in southeast Florida. They enjoy feasting on arctic cod, shrimp, clams, crabs, and octopus and have been known to live up to 25 years. For more information on the conservation efforts and status of the bearded seal population please check out this page created by the NOAA Fisheries Service Office of Protected Resources.

Adult bearded seal by by wildlife photographer Paul Souders

Adult bearded seal by by wildlife photographer Paul Souders

Image (c)  www.telegraph.co.uk

More on marine debris …

I suppose this post is inspired by my frequent visits to populated beaches and the marine debris I’ve been collecting with the help of anyone that asks what I am doing. I hate scare tactics, but pictures make a big impact when it comes to what happens with what we leave behind on the beach. The effects are long lasting and unfortunately out of sight. This is just a little reminder that I hope you share.

31 facts about Arctic whales

This past week offshore drilling in the Arctic was approved to get underway (it’s been 20 years since this previously happened). This is going to severely affect the quiet and serene home for whales and other marine animals in the area. Here are 31 facts about the beluga, narwal, and bowheads whales – species that exclusively call this area home.

Resources

10 justifications ocean acidification is a serious concern

Ocean acidification (OA) is the process by which the ocean absorbs carbon dioxide (CO2). This process creates chemical reactions that reduce 1) seawater pH, 2) carbonate ion concentration, and 3) saturation states of biologically important calcium carbonate minerals (the minerals floating within the water column that many shellfish absorb to create stronger shells).

Here are 10 reasons OA is a serious concern. Keep in mind the science community has just begun to scratch the surface of OA impacts to the marine ecosystem and new findings are always being revealed.

  • OA is one of the greatest threats to marine biodiversity. Of particular concern are coral reefs which are the habitat of at least a quarter of all marine species.
  • Many marine organisms (e.g., reef building corals, shellfish) that produce calcium carbonate shells or skeletons are adversely affected by the increased absorption of CO2 levels and decreasing pH in seawater. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, “The effect is similar to osteoporosis, slowing growth and making shells weaker”.
  • Reef building corals, a ‘framework species’, are one species greatly affected by coral bleaching (a result of OA). Coral reefs are being destroyed twice as fast as rainforests. This is significant considering over $6.5B and 63,000 jobs are connected with tourism of the Great Barrier Reef.
  • Abnormally low pH levels in the seawater off the West coast of the US may be attributed to “near total failures of developing oysters in both aquaculture facilities and natural ecosystems”.
  • Before people started burning coal and oil, the pH of the ocean was essentially stable for the previous 20 million years. However, science predicts that by 2100 (less than 100 years!) OA will more than double if CO2 emissions continue at their current rate.
  • The ocean is absorbing the CO2 we are spewing into the atmosphere at the rate of, “22 million tons per day“.
  • The last time the world’s oceans acidified quickly (approximately 6.8 trillion tons of carbon entered the atmosphere over a period of 10,000 years) many deep-sea species went extinct. The cause is not known, but the result was a rise in temperature at least 5-9°C.
  • Strategies needed to combat OA are similar to those that are needed to combat global warming. In fact, OA is known as the evil twin of global warming.
  • To help combat OA you should conserve energy at every opportunity. This could include using the most efficient fuels for cars, trucks, airplanes, and ships.
  • According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, “OA has the potential to seriously threaten the future health of the world’s oceans and the significant economic benefits they provide to humankind”.

This illustration depicts how less emissions can combat the effects of ocean acidification. 

Project AWARE

English: project aware logo

Image via Wikipedia

From time to time I like to write about what is going on with other amazing organizations around the world. Today I am highlighting the work of Project AWARE. As they like to say, the Foundation is “a growing movement of scuba divers protecting the ocean planet – one dive at a time.” One of their major focuses is marine debris. Marine debris is a serious problem and effects us all. Did you know that NOAA stated in December that debris from the earthquake in Japan is making its way to Hawai’i already? The folks involved with Project AWARE are ‘diving for debris‘ and not only removing it from the ocean but are also collecting data on what and where they find debris to be used to effect policy and change in the long term. Keep up the great work!

Simple coral bleaching teaching

There are some things that we want to stay white, such as snow and Kris Kringle’s beard. Coral reefs are not one of them. Unfortunately, The Nature Conservancy noted that 2011 was the most extensive coral reef bleaching event for the Florida Reef Tract since 2004. Scientists working on the Florida Keys Reef Resilience Program were not surprised due to the very hot summer of 2011.

What is coral bleaching?

As the National Ocean Service (a branch of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) states, “When corals are stressed by changes in conditions such as temperature, light, or nutrients, they expel the symbiotic algae living in their tissues, causing them to turn completely white.” For more information on the symbiotic relationships going on within a coral reef check out this video!

Image (c) wunderground.org

How deep is the ocean?

A picture is always worth a thousand words. So, to illustrate this question I’m using a nifty infographic from Our Amazing Planet relating the world’s tallest mountain to the ocean’s deepest trench. This poster will show you where Denver is in to relation to your average plane flying overhead and how deep sperm whales dive in relation to where the Titanic wreck was discovered!

Our Amazing Planet explores Earth from its peaks to it mysterious depths.
Source

Who is afraid of Atlantic wolf(fish)?

Wolf FishThe Atlantic wolffish (Anarhichas lupus) may look rather frightening, but, the fish will only harm you if it is out of water. This is rather understandable since it is out of its natural habitat. It prefers to live on rocky bottoms of the ocean floor in very deep, cold waters.

These fish have high concentrations of the compound found in antifreeze so they are able to survive these low temperatures.

The Atlantic wolffish may have gotten black listed as a ‘scary creature’ since it is so often seen out of the water. Commercial fishermen often caught this fish by accident (i.e., bycatch). In fact, the wolffish is listed as a Species of Concern with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Image (c) mercola.com