AltaSea: Trending – September 11, 2019

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


NOAA Develops A New Type of Coral Nursery (NOAA)

When a ship grounds on coral reef, the accident can severely damage the reef and scatter countless small coral fragments onto the seafloor. But these pieces of coral aren’t yet dead—they can gain new life if placed into a coral nursery. This small installation allows the coral fragments, which average around 4-inches in length, to recover and grow until they’re large enough for conservation managers to outplant them back into reefs that need them.

This process is effective in areas where corals grow relatively quickly, such as Florida and the Caribbean, but not so much in places like Hawaiʻi. Recently, NOAA’s coral restoration experts have devised an alternate plan: Instead of focusing on recovering coral fragments, they could save fully formed colonies that have become detached from the reef due to storms and other disturbances.

New plastic pollution formed by fire looks like rocks (National Geographic)

On the sandy embayments rimming the southwestern English coastline, beachcombers can find a wide array of stones, from tiny pebbles to hefty paperweights, strewn amidst the flotsam. They’re a rather unremarkable looking bunch; a palette of grays offset with the occasional swirl of color, smooth on their surfaces and rounded at the corners.

But start picking them up and handling them, and you’ll soon discover that some of these seemingly nondescript rocks aren’t rocks at all.

This is pyroplastic—a newly described form of plastic pollution that was transformed by fire. Even geologists are often confounded by its appearance. To Andrew Turner, an environmental scientist at the University of Plymouth who described the substance in a recent paper in Science of the Total Environment, that suggests pyroplastics may be hiding in plain sight all over the world.

Oceanographer reveals link between subseafloor life and global climate (

University of Rhode Island oceanographer Steven D’Hondt and his collaborators have studied the microbial life that lives deep beneath the seafloor—including the rate at which it breathes and how much food it consumes—for more than 20 years, and they have made some significant discoveries.

Now D’Hondt and fellow URI oceanographers Robert Pockalny, Victoria Fulfer and Arthur Spivack have synthesized the results of dozens of related studies to determine how subseafloor life affects the world above the water line. And their findings are somewhat surprising.


This is how we can feed the planet while saving the ocean (World Economic Forum)

What if I showed you evidence suggesting the global supply of beef, chicken or pork could collapse over the coming decades? You might well panic at the thought.

This threat, while not eminent for land-based animals, is very real for the ocean and the critical sources of wild seafood that we harvest from them. While most of us may think of land-based sources as providing the majority of our animal protein, the ocean’s contribution to human nutrition is incredibly important. Seafood provides as many as 3 billion people with their principal sources of dietary protein. And with the United Nations predicting a global population of 9.7 billion by 2050, and potentially as many as 11 billion by the end of this century, the number of people reliant on seafood for their diets is only likely to grow.

All of which makes the current state of the ocean – and warnings about what this could mean for many of our most significant fisheries – all the more worrying.

Adidas is turning plastic ocean waste into sneakers and sportswear (Business Insider)

Adidas makes over 400 million pairs of shoes every year. Manufacturing that many shoes requires a lot of resources. But constantly creating new materials isn’t great for the environment. So Adidas is turning to a different source.

Experts predict that in 30 years, there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish. And one study estimates that 90% of seabirds have consumed some form of plastic waste. All that pollution on beaches and in the ocean is harmful to both marine life and humans. So Adidas is trying to stop some of that plastic before it reaches the ocean. In 2015, Adidas partnered with the environmental organization Parley for the Oceans. Their goal? To turn marine pollution into sportswear. And they’ve made huge progress.


Explore the Expedition Open House Shows Specimens Collected in LA’s Urban Ocean (Spectrum News 1)

Touching a bat star from top to bottom is one of the cool things that fourth-grader Elise Lamond is getting to experience at the Explore the Expedition open house.

And that includes feeling the difference between different types of sea stars.

“It kind of feels like the sea urchin but not as like spiky,” said Elise.

This open house gives the public a glimpse into the biodiversity that scientists have been collecting in the LA Urban Ocean Expedition.

The specimens they find in the waters of the Palos Verdes Peninsula and the Ports of L.A. and Long Beach are brought back to the pop-up lab at AltaSea to be studied.

Report from Cuba: International Environmental Conference (Random Lengths News)

A strong US youth delegation participated in the 12th International Environmental Conference held in Havana, Cuba July 1 – 5. The delegation of 19 youth and chaperones (overwhelmingly Latinx) presented in multiple workshops at the invitation of the University of Havana Marine Science Center, the Cuban National Aquarium, and the Environmental Youth of Cuba (Jóvenes Ambientalistas Cubanos). San Pedro youth of the LA Maritime Institute Youth Crew/Explore the Coast program participated.

The group presentations from US environmental organizations, were attended by over 175 participants from all parts of the world. Participants congratulated the LA Microplastics Team for being so young and tackling the difficult problem of plastic pollution and seeing the immediacy of international collective action.

This is what it’s like to swim through the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (National Geographic)

Roughly a thousand miles southwest of San Francisco, Ben Lecomte, a 52-year-old French

long-distance swimmer, is exploring one of the ocean’s most polluted places. It’s day 71 of his 80-day swim across the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a swirling repository for some 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic weighing nearly 90,000 tons. He’s dubbed the project the Vortex Swim and his route is determined by University of Hawaii scientists using satellite imagery and ocean modeling to locate the highest concentrations of debris. When they locate a particularly trashy spot, Lecomte jumps in from his 67-foot sailboat.

In 1998, Lecomte completed what he claimed was the first swim across the Atlantic Ocean, supported by a boat, but without using a kick board. In 2018, he attempted to swim from Japan to California to complete the world’s longest swim, but after traveling 1,500 nautical miles in 165 days, he had to cancel the last leg due to damage to his support boat. He encountered so much plastic during that attempt that he was inspired to plan a swim through the epicenter of marine plastic waste.

Victor Vescovo: Adventurer reaches deepest ocean locations (BBC News)

US adventurer Victor Vescovo has become the first person to visit the deepest points in every ocean.

His fifth and final dive in a prototype submersible was made to the bottom of the Arctic’s Molloy Trench, some 5.5km (3.4 miles) below the sea surface.

This followed dives during the past 10 months to the floor of the Pacific, Indian, Southern and Atlantic oceans.

The millionaire financier’s team also visited the wreck of the Titanic.

All Mr Vescovo’s dives were made using the 12-tonne Deep Sea Vehicle (DSV) Limiting Factor, launched and recovered from a dedicated support ship, the DSSV Pressure Drop, ironically a one-time navy submarine hunter.


Sea Otter Awareness Week (Cabrillo Marine Aquarium)

Sunday, September 22, 2019 – Saturday, September 28, 2019

12:00 PM – 4:00 PM

As part of this special week set aside to raise the profile of sea otters, CMA will provide visitors with the chance to get an “inside look” at this endangered species.

Stop by CMA during Sea Otter Awareness Week and learn more about these amazing animals and their important role in California’s kelp forest ecosystem, the animals they eat and other fascinating sea otter facts!

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