AltaSea: Trending – January 18, 2018

A monthly round-up of news and trends important to the AltaSea community.


Use the ocean without using it all up (The Korea Herald)

The Trump administration announced last week that it would open 90 percent of our coastal waters to oil and gas drilling. It declared last month that it would shrink or eliminate several national monuments — both terrestrial and marine. Last year, it rolled back safety requirements that prevent spills such as the Deepwater Horizon, and it stated it would reconsider protections of national marine sanctuaries. 

Apparently lost on the administration are two simple facts: If we want to keep fishing, we need places where there is no fishing. If we want to maintain coastal tourism economies, we need places without drilling.

We need to use the ocean — food security and jobs depend on it. But we must be careful not to use it up. And right now, despite its vastness, we are indeed in danger of using it up.

Human Emissions Made Ocean Heat Wave 53 Times More Likely (National Geographic)

In northern Australia in 2016, high ocean heat bleached hundreds of miles of corals, killed mangroves, and destroyed giant clams. Off New Zealand, an ocean hot spell wiped out black abalone and brought an oyster-killing disease.

Just as atmospheric shifts can bring droughts and nasty heat waves on land, shifts in weather or ocean circulation also can spark deadly marine heat waves, which can thoroughly scramble life at sea. But until recently scientists understood little about what role climate change might play in these extreme sea events.

Now, new first-of-its-kind research is making clear that human emissions of greenhouse gases made the appearance of each patch of hot water many times—in some cases dozens, even hundreds of times—more likely to occur.

The Squid That Sink to the Ocean’s Floor When They Die (The New York Times)

In a paper published recently in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Dr. Hoving and colleagues at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, where he was formerly a researcher, described happening upon the remains of 64 squid and squid egg cases during dives with a remotely operated vehicle or ROV in Mexico’s Gulf of California. If squid in other locations are also found to drift to the bottom like this, they may play a previously unidentified part in the ocean’s role as a storage place for carbon, which could have implications for the study of climate change.


Rich harvest from ocean as seaweed yields biofuel bonus (Financial Times – video report)

There is growing interest in exploring whether kelp could be used as an efficient new source of renewable energy. It grows so quickly, much, much quicker than land plants. It has a higher photosynthetic capability. It can sequester carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere much better and quicker than land plants. So there are lots of potential benefits of using seaweed as a feedstock.

The SeaGas project in the northeast of the United Kingdom is exploring how best to turn seaweed into a biogas. Maija Palmer visits a processing facility in the UK to investigate.

Outlook 2018: The Big Ocean Issues and Trends to Watch (News Deeply)

Key negotiations will begin to protect biodiversity in two-thirds of the ocean and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from shipping. Meanwhile, watch for advances in sustainable aquaculture production both in the U.S. and globally.

Robots aid better understanding of phytoplankton blooms (Science Daily)

Phytoplankton blooms are one of the most important factors contributing to the efficiency of the carbon pump in the North Atlantic Ocean. To better understand this phenomenon, researchers have developed a new class of robots able to collect data in the ocean throughout the year. Using these unparalleled data, the researchers have identified the starting point for the explosive spring phytoplankton bloom.

How Hydrogen Could Help Clean Up the Global Shipping Industry (News Deeply)

IMO regulations go into effect in 2020 that will limit vessels’ sulfur emissions, a deadly byproduct of fossil fuels that’s found in particularly high concentrations in the cheap, lightly refined petroleum product known as bunker fuel favored by shippers.

These developments have the industry scrambling to adopt alternative fuels. Low-sulfur diesel and biofuels will probably make up the bulk of the substitution in the near term, but eventually, say shipping industry executives and energy experts, the fuel of the future for cruise liners, ferries and container ships will likely be hydrogen. Electricity generated from a hydrogen fuel cell to drive a motor produces no emissions, and when coupled with batteries and a device called an electrolyzer, the system can produce hydrogen from a resource that all vessels have easy access to: seawater.


‘Blue Planet II’ review: Worthy sequel with a warning on the environment (Newsday)

This is the next installment of the BBC’s (and BBC America’s) ongoing “Planet Earth” series, but as the name also indicates, these seven hours also essentially comprise the sequel to “The Blue Planet,” the jewel of BBC’s Natural History unit that aired in the early 2000s. Four years in production, “II” went to every ocean, and continent, while production teams spent 6,000 diving hours recording what the producers say are various “firsts” — including the first submersible dive 3,280 feet in the waters off Antarctica. Once again, David Attenborough narrates.

“Blue Planet II” is an urgent and at times nakedly emotional plea to save the oceans of the world. The 2001 series was a celebration. This follow-up is a warning.

The Blue Planet effect: why marine biology courses are booming (The Guardian)

Thanks in part to the BBC wildlife series, “The Blue Planet,” there has been a sea change in the popularity of marine biology courses and the study of the world’s oceans. Like many universities around the country, Southampton is noticing the “Blue Planet effect” on the numbers of students interested in the field. “Big series such as these are critical in raising awareness of the issues facing marine wildlife,” says Lucas.

New Estuary & Ocean Science Center launched at the Romberg Tiburon Campus (SF State News)

San Francisco State University has been a leader in the study of marine and estuarine ecosystems since 1978, when it established the Romberg Tiburon Center for Environmental Studies. Now the University is launching a new research and service organization at the Romberg Tiburon Campus — the Estuary & Ocean Science (EOS) Center — representing the first and only institution of higher education with a marine science laboratory dedicated to research and scholarship located on San Francisco Bay.

“From collapsing kelp forests and coastal flooding to drought and wildfires, the ocean is involved in all of it,” said Professor of Biology and Director of the EOS Center Karina Nielsen. “Our coastal ecosystems, infrastructure and communities around San Francisco Bay are on the front lines. 


Open House Featuring Southern California Coastal Ocean Observing System (SCCOOS), Junk Raft and The Longest Swim (AltaSea)

Saturday, January 27th – 10:00 am to 12:00 pm

Southern California Coastal Ocean Observing System (SCCOOS) brings together coastal observations in Southern California to provide information necessary to address issues surrounding climate change, ecosystem preservation and management, coastal water quality, maritime operations, coastal hazards and national security.

The Junk Raft is now on display at AltaSea. Author Marcus Eriksen built the Junk Raft out of plastic water bottles and broken sailboat masts to help others understand the dangers of plastic pollution.  He then sailed the ship 2,600 miles from Los Angeles to Hawaii.  The adventure of building a raft out of trash and then sailing it across the Pacific Ocean will be described.

Attendance is free and open to the public. Please RSVP to by January 22nd.  For further information, please contact Robin Aube at

Parasites and Food Webs (Cabrillo Marine Aquarium)

Friday, February 2nd – 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm

Dr. Kevin Lafferty, US Geological Survey and UC Santa Barbara will speak as part of the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium’s Discover Lecture Series.
Food webs are the conceptual framework underlying most of Marine Ecology. But Marine Ecologists rarely account for most of the species in food webs, which turn out to be parasites. Parasites can be disgusting, but are they trivial? Parasites change how food webs look and can affect the way predators and prey interact. Furthermore, food webs alter disease transmission, meaning that we can manipulate food webs to improve health.

Dr. Kevin Lafferty is a senior marine ecologist with the US Geological Survey at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He studies marine conservation in estuaries, sandy beaches, kelp forests and coral reefs, with a special fondness for parasites. 

To RSVP or for more information, click here.

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