Marine Debris Get Star Coverage At Conservation Of Migratory Species Conference And 31 Species Granted New Protection Status.

I have been following along closely these last few days on Twitter (#CMSCOP11) to the exciting goings on at the UNEP Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS).

Lots of marine related proposals and issues up for discussion including; marine debris, whale and dolphin conservation, and also 21 shark and ray species up for listing on CMS appendices (appendix I listing requires strict protection, while Appendix II requires coordinated management by the countries through which the species migrate).

The outcome of the six days of meeting was very, very positive.

All of the 21 shark and ray species up for adoption on appendices to improve there conservation protection where successfully adopted. This includes the hammerhead sharks (Sphyrna sp.) [Appendix II], manta ray (Manta birostris) [Appendix I and II], thresher sharks (Alopias sp.) [Appendix II], and silky shark (Carcharhinus falciformis) [Appendix II], this means they now require much stricter protection and coordinated management. This is brilliant as shark numbers are dwindling worldwide and many are at threat from; illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, overfishing, by catch, shark finning,  and habitat destruction.


Scalloped Hammerhead Shark [Photograph: Brian Skerry, National Geographic via NOAA]


The IPCC Fifth Assessment Report is OUT!!

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has released its fifth assessment report on climate change.

You can read the full report here.

The report is very, very long. Even the systhesis report which is an overview of the knowledge comes in at 116 pages.

So what key points can we take away from it?

“Human influence on the climate system is clear, and recent anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are the highest in history. Recent climate changes have had widespread impacts on human and natural systems.”

This is to say that YES climate change has been driven by human influence and human resource use and exploitation. There is no hiding from it (though some will hide) we are responsible for global climate change.

Anthropogenic Green House Gas Emissions since the 1970's. You can clearly see that they are increasing

Anthropogenic Greenhouse Gas Emissions since the 1970’s. You can clearly see that they are increasing and have risen more rapidly between 2000-2010 than in the previous three decades. (Graphic: IPCC).

What we know since the 1950’s is:

  • Snow and ice cover has been diminished.
  • Sea levels have risen.
  • The ocean and atmosphere are both warmer.

These are all at levels unprecedented over decades to millennia! This is not just normal fluctuations.

The Oceans have been the dominant warming environment. The largest increases have been in top 75 metres of the water column but increases have been measure at all depths including over 3000 metres (where estimates only began in 1992). In addition to this the ocean is also becoming more saline and far more acidic. In addition to the ocean warming there is also evidence that in coastal waters the oxygen concentration has decreased (warm water can hold less dissolved oxygen) as well which, is detrimental to coastal dependent species and reefs. If like me you are super interested int he ocean and the consequences for it you can browse the whole Ocean Observations Chapter.

Sea Levels have also risen in the period between 1901 and 2010. The mean rate of this sea level rise (very likely) was 1.7 [1.5 to 1.9] mm yr–1 between 1901 and 2010 and this increased to 3.2 [2.8 to 3.6] mm yr–1 between 1993 and 2010. Almost worldwide glaciers have been shrinking and the melting of sea ice has been contributing to the rise in sea levels.

What about the Atmosphere I hear you shouting…well in a very unsurprising turn of events it is also getting warmer.

“Each of the last three decades has been successively warmer at the Earth’s surface than any preceding decade since 1850.”

What are the causes of all this change:

“It is extremely likely that more than half of the observed increase in global average surface temperature from 1951 to 2010 was caused by the anthropogenic increase in greenhouse gas concentrations and other anthropogenic forcings together”

What’s In A Vessel?

I have had the opportunity to work on a few different platforms during my brief time as a marine biologist and all of them have their ups and downs; with some I favour over others. In this post I thought I would go into a little detail on the pros and cons of different vessel sizes.

SEACR Vessel 2

View from a small vessel with a gray whale off the bow.

Small Vessel

From small vessels which vary between little “tinnys” to high powered ribs you are close to the water level and therefore closer to your species of study.

Using small vessels you can more easily manoeuvre in your study area and conduct focal follows, take samples (such as blow or faecal samples) and switch off your engines. They enable you to travel into areas that would otherwise be impossible with something larger including shallow channels, small inlets and waterways between islands.

View Off Small Vessel 2

View from the stern of a small boat.

They are cheaper to run and you don’t need to have a full crew and Captain, it can just be you (with the correct license and permits) alongside whomever you are collecting data with. You will cover a smaller area over a days research and are a slave to how much fuel you can carry and the weather conditions. If your vessel is completely open then you will also be personally impacted by the elements, think soggy trousers and chilly toes!

KPII - At Sea

Example of a large research vessel.

Large Vessel

From large vessels you are on a much higher platform. You can see a greater distance and can usually travel a lot further off shore, over a longer time period and in more adverse weather conditions.

Spreading The Word – Oceans Initiative

As I mentioned last week, in this post I am going to talk about the amazing guys at Oceans Initiative. They are a team of scientists who’s aim is to research marine life in order to increase our understanding and protect it in an ever changing world. They work in Canada and beyond looking at all kinds of marine life from whales and dolphins all the way to sharks and seabirds.

Oceans Initiative - Science for the sea. (Image from:

Oceans Initiative – Science for the sea. (Image from:

I was lucky enough to get to know and work with the scientists at Oceans Initiative during my masters degree when I contacted Dr. Rob Williams one of the co-founders and he happily agreed to share one of their vast data sets with me and also to co-supervise my thesis on vessel noise in Haro Strait, BC. Contacting Rob about Oceans Initiative’s research and thesis potential was one of the best decisions I have ever made and led me to where I am today as a scientist. As I said in my previous post, make the leap and contact those interesting researchers.