A monthly round-up of news and trends important to the AltaSea community.
Some Coral Species Adapting to Warmer Waters (New Atlas)
While partially-bleached coral isn’t handling warm water too well, new research has found that some species are adapting to an increase in temperature. Rising ocean temperatures are wreaking havoc on the organisms that live there, and one only needs to look to coral reefs to see the extent of the damage. Severe coral bleaching events could become increasingly regular, but a new study has revealed a glimmer of hope. Some species of coral – but by no means, all of them – appear to be adapting to the warming waters, with researchers finding less bleached coral in a 2016 event than under similar circumstances in 1998.
Last year was a bad year for coral. Unusually warm water puts a lot of stress on the organisms, and in response they discharge vital algae, which rob them of nutrients and color. The resulting paleness, known as bleaching, paints a pretty clear picture of an ailing reef, and reports suggest the condition affected about 60 percent of the world’s coral in 2016, including huge swathes of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
SUSTAINABLE AND INNOVATIVE BUSINESS
Colorful Ball Helping Keep Millions of Plastic Microfibers Out of the Ocean (One Green Planet)
It is now common knowledge (we hope) that the world’s oceans are filled with tons of plastic waste. Sadly, the truth is each year, about 8.8 million tons of plastic gets dumped into their waters where it threatens the very existence of marine life.
But there are still sides to this scary reality that many of us do not realize. For example, while thinking about the trash that ends up in the oceans, we usually imagine used plastic bottles and plastic bags from supermarkets – and rightly so, because those everyday items constitute a huge percentage of all marine debris. But there are also much less obvious plastic throwaways finding their way into the oceans, sometimes very tiny ones – like plastic fibers from our clothing.
Although very small, microfibers are still very dangerous to animals and they accumulate into huge amounts of plastic debris. Most of the clothing we wear today is made of synthetic materials, cheap to produce and easy to maintain. However, these materials shed little plastic fibers every time we do laundry. In fact, it’s estimated that each time we wash a piece of synthetic clothing, 1,900 plastic microfibers are released from it into the water. Since most machines don’t have a filtration system to speak of, these fibers get carried from our washing machines to sewage plants or waterways, where they again fail to be filtered out. Eventually, the fibers are washed out to sea where they are accidentally consumed by fish. In the ocean, plastic acts like a sponge picking up toxins and chemicals along the way. So essentially, when fish eat plastic fibers, they’re taking on that toxic burden as well. In the end, people who eat fish are also consuming little bits of plastic that traveled all the way from someone else’s washing machine.
On March 15, 2017, the Southern California Coastal Ocean Observing System (SCCOOS) was officially certified as a Regional Information Coordination Entity (RICE). As a certified RICE, under the authority of the Integrated Coastal and Ocean Observation System Act of 2009 (ICOOS Act), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) ensures that the data collected and distributed are managed according to NOAA best practices.
Whether ocean data are being used for maritime safety and security, public health and aquaculture, economic transport, or recreational use, having the highest quality data standards is important. In some cases, lives depend on the quality of the data, such as the use of ocean surface currents in the U.S. Coast Guard’s Search and Rescue Operations. In other instances, high quality data enable economic efficiency, such as the application of wave data at the Port of Long Beach allowing more hours of operation.
How do Fish Perceive Their Environment? (Phys Org)
Fish perceive changes in water currents caused by prey, conspecifics and predators using their lateral line. The tiny sensors of this organ also allow them to navigate reliably. However, with increasing current velocities, the background signal also increases. Scientists at the University of Bonn have now created a realistic, three-dimensional model of a fish for the first time and have simulated the precise current conditions. The virtual calculations show that particular anatomical adaptations minimize background noise. The results are now being presented in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.
The ide (Leuciscus idus) is a fish inhabiting the lower stretches of slow-flowing rivers. Like most fishes, it can perceive the current using its lateral line. The mechanoreceptors of this organ are distributed over the surface of the entire body, which is why the organ provides a three-dimensional image of the hydrodynamic conditions. Fishes can thus also find their way around themselves in the dark and identify prey, conspecifics, or predators.
The recently retired zoologist Prof. Horst Bleckmann from the University of Bonn has spent many years researching the sensitive organ and has used it as inspiration for technical flow sensors in order to identify leakages in water pipes.
Unnatural History: New Creatures in Our Oceans (Creative Review)
Photographer Mandy Barker’s new book features images of “recent and unique species” found in the waters around Cork in Ireland. Yet far from a celebratory project, the discovery of these miniature creatures is indicative of a wider environmental crisis.
In each of the 26 plates included in Beyond Drifting: Imperfectly Known Animals, a sea-borne organism is rendered in intricate detail. Some images are blurry, some are scratched. On the surface, the book harks back to illustrated science journals of old and appears to contain the findings of some extensive marine research.
But all isn’t quite as it seems. In fact, Barker’s book is an art project – and the microscopic photography is not of organic plankton, but of bits of plastic debris. Beyond Drifting is a clever critique of a massive environmental problem – and, in focusing in on one small area of Ireland in particular, Barker highlights a global issue.
According to the research she footnotes in the book, around eight million tons of plastic finds its way into our oceans each year. This then affects nearly 700 different marine species – from becoming entangled in the debris to ingesting it and distributing the waste plastic through the food chain. “This”, Barker writes, “reflects an unnatural threat to the biodiversity of our planet”.
Ann Carpenter for Honorary Mayor – Siren’s Brunch (Saturday, May 13th, 2017 – 11:00am – 2:00pm)
If you are a mom, have a mom, miss a mom, know a mom, or admire a mom, it’s a weekend to celebrate. Please join us at Sirens Java & Tea House in San Pedro! Enjoy a specially prepared brunch at Sirens Java and Tea, 356 West 7th Street with Belgian waffles, mini quiches and scrambled eggs, fruit, coffee, tea and orange juice. View a selection of Maral Designs ensembles modeled while you dine, available for purchase. Attendees will automatically be entered into an opportunity drawing with a chance to win a beautiful pearl necklace donated by Bringelson Jewelers. And pick up that last minute Mother’s Day present at the silent auction. Proceeds will benefit Ann Carpenter’s San Pedro Honorary Mayor campaign where she has designated AltaSea as her nonprofit of choice.
AltaSea Quarterly Open House (Saturday, June 10th – 10:30am – 12:00pm)
Please plan to join us for the next AltaSea Quarterly Open House on June 10th. AltaSea staff members will hold site tours and feature our partner, Blue Robotics, who will present and demonstrate the applications of underwater robots being used to enhance ocean research. Blue Robotics makes components for marine robots to enable the next generation of ocean exploration.
Free and open to the public. Berth 58, 2456 S. Signal Street, San Pedro
To RSVP and for questions, contact RSVP@altasea.org
Port of Los Angeles High School 6th Annual Green Festival (Friday, May 19th – 12:00pm – 3:00pm)
Port of Los Angeles High School will celebrate its 6th annual Green Festival Friday, May 19th. The campus is open to the community and families for this event, called “the best of its kind” by past participants. This year’s keynote speaker is Dr. Kevin Danaher, co-founder of Global Exchange and founder of the national Green Festival movement. He will speak on the emergence and importance of the Green Economy.
POLAHS students organize the annual event, and coordinate booths for leading organizations and businesses in sustainability. Booths include: UC Master Gardener demonstrations and vegetable plant giveaway, renewable energy businesses, solar-powered DJ, Green Car Show, fair trade, Native American rights, local air pollution controls and monitoring, dog adoption and advocacy, an “urban farm” petting zoo, yoga and Zumba, International Bird Rescue, raffles and much more. Come enjoy delicious food at our “conscious food court” and get inspired to join the movement toward sustainability and local resilience. As the students say, “Our Mission is a Just Transition!”