Archive for July, 2010

Fisheries collapse in the Firth of Clyde

Friday, July 30th, 2010

We’ve caught a couple of pre-reports on this, but now the full paper is available for all to read at PLoS 1. The report is based on historical fish landings reported from the Firth. This sees a healthy and diverse fishery in the early 19th century. After this date the fisheries effort intensified, and commercial landings for each species targeted in turn is seen to go through a boom followed within a few decades with collapse.

The only commercial fisheries that remain today are reported to be for Nephrops and scallops (Pecten maximus, Pectinidae). The report damns the fishing industry for forcing a repeal of the trawl ban in 1984 that had been put in place since 1889. It further argues that modern intensive Nephrops fisheries are preventing the recovery of other fish stocks.


Thurstan RH, Roberts CM (2010) Ecological Meltdown in the Firth of Clyde, Scotland: Two Centuries of Change in a Coastal Marine Ecosystem. PLoS ONE 5(7): e11767. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0011767

Scary science roundup, 30th July 2010

Friday, July 30th, 2010

Oil spills, chemical weapons, global warming, even toxic octopuses in this week’s episode. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, a report has surfaced over the last two days that the levels of global marine primary production are in free-fall. This story links with our report last week, that phytoplankton actually start to bloom in the winter, when turbulence reduces the density of predators (Acepted theory of algal blooms wrong). This week global warming is blamed for increasing the temperature of surface waters, causing them to become more stratified, and reducing the chance of mixing with deeper cold water masses. The worrying thing is that this week’s report is based on evaluation of historic data for phytoplankton levels in seawater, so it looks like the feedback loop we predicted last week is already picking up speed… Our second article is a calibration exercise to allow us to quantify phytoplankton blooms from space more accurately, I hope that this will show up some errors in the estimates made in the first paper.
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Science roundup, 19th July 2010

Monday, July 19th, 2010

A quick turn-around on this occasion – with hopeful news from the Gulf of Mexico, though even if the leak has been blocked successfully, it will be a long time before the effects of this disaster have been fully understood (never mind fixed). To another man-made disaster, this time off the southwest coast of Africa. Here over-fishing in the 1960’s resulted in ecosystem collapse, and only now are there a few hopeful signs of recovery, with the arrival of some tough gobies that can cope with anoxic waters and eat jellyfish…

First though, have we got the theory of algal blooms wrong? If we have, this could have serious implications for climatic modelling!
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Science update 14th July 2010

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

The usual mixed bag of marine science, trawled from the Google deeps. This week we have tales of eels, shrimp, fish and octopuses (ar at least one octopus, called Paul, who has had a significant impact on the social behaviour of a certain species of terrestrial apes).
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Science update 4th July 2010

Sunday, July 4th, 2010

Themes this week include climate change, and in particular how phytoplankton, some of the smallest plants on the planet, have a vital role in managing the Earth’s carbon dioxide budget. Otherwise, scientists are starting to evaluate how climate change will effect key organisms in the marine ecosystem, and results from these studies are beginning to come in. Fisheries are an important component of many maritime economies, and there are a few interesting papers in this area this week. Historic studies of fisheries are important for understanding how and why they develop, and what economic pressures can lead to collapse. Otherwise, husbandry is becomming important in the marine field, as demonstrated by the breeding of new ‘super prawns’ for the Australian market.

If climate control and resources are two positive things, it is less easy to find good things to say about pollution and the continuing oil spill. The importance of monitoring marine systems for organic mercury compounds is emphasised – while the marine ecosystem dilutes these compounds, the marine food chain concentrates them right back up again, and guess who is at the top of that food chain…

On the oil spill there is a very interesting blog post on how likely the spill was to occur – was it an event so unlikely that (as the US regulators agreed when they licensed the Deepwater Horizon) there was no likelihood of environmental damage? Beyond that, we look at some of the less visible casualties of the spill, and start to quantify just how much of the Gulf marine ecosystem has been wiped out.
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Chagos MPA, Film

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

The Chagos Islands and surrounding seas were designated a Marine Protected Area by the UK government in early April 2010. The Chagos has the world’s largest coral atoll and 55 tiny islands set in quarter of a million square miles of the world’s cleanest seas.¬† This is the UK’s greatest area of marine biodiversity.

To see short film which shows the wonderful life click on following link: protectchagos.org