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Strange floating 'blob' found off Florida

Study: Arctic fish catches under-reported
Vancouver, British Columbia (UPI) Feb 4, 2011 - Canadian researchers say actual fishery catches in the arctic in the last 50 years were almost 75 times the amounts reported to authorities. Scientists at the University of British Columbia estimate 950,000 tons were caught from 1950 to 2006, far above what was reported to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization during this period, a university release said. The research team reconstructed fisheries catch data from various sources for the FAO's Fisheries Statistical Area 18, which covers arctic coastal areas in northern Siberia, Alaska and Canada.

"Ineffective reporting, due to governance issues and a lack of credible data on small-scale fisheries, has given us a false sense of comfort that the arctic is still a pristine frontier when it comes to fisheries," Dirk Zeller at UBC's Fisheries Center says. "We now offer a more accurate baseline against which we can monitor changes in fish catches and to inform policy and conservation efforts. "Conservation efforts in the arctic have so far focused on the exploitation of marine mammals -- seals and polar bears are frankly easy on the eye and plain to see," Zeller says. "None of them would survive, however, if we allow over-exploitation of fish in this delicate but so-far neglected ecosystem."
by Staff Writers
Sarasota, Fla. (UPI) Feb 3, 2011
Scientists say an underwater blob of goo off the Florida Panhandle coast isn't oil, but rather a mass of dead plankton, algae and bacteria.

The underwater mass of dead sea life, at least three feet thick and spanning 2/3 of a mile off to the coast, appears to be growing as microscopic algae and bacteria get trapped in it and die, the Sarasota (Fla.) Herald-Tribune reported Wednesday.

Scientists investigating whether oil from last year's Deepwater Horizon disaster was a factor in the creation of the blob say tests so far have found no sign of oil.

"It seems to be a combination of algae and bacteria," David Hollander of the University of South Florida said, describing the substance as toxic and "extraordinarily sticky."

Researchers say they are not ruling out a possible connection to the oil spill that gummed up that part of the gulf for 30 to 40 days and pumped 186 million to 227 million gallons of crude into the ocean.

"We don't know all the ramifications, the implications of a spill like this," Hollander said.

earlier related report
Squid hear sounds from ocean movement
Woods Hole, Mass. (UPI) Feb 4, 2011 - Squid can hear, U.S. scientists say, but not by sensing changes in pressure from sound waves like we do; they sense the motion sound waves generate in water.

Researchers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts confirmed that longfin squid can indeed detect sound at low frequencies by the movement of their aqueous environment, reported this week.

"They are detecting themselves moving back and forth with the sound wave," Woods Hole marine biologist T. Aran Mooney says.

He compared a squid in the ocean being jostled by a sound wave to a piece of fruit suspended in Jell-O. "If you jiggle the Jell-O, the whole block of Jell-O is moving with the fruit."

Mooney's team determined that squid can only listen in at low frequencies of up to 500 hertz. Humans, by comparison, can hear frequencies from about 20 to 20,000 hertz.

Squid can probably detect wind, waves and reef sounds, Mooney says, but not the high-frequency sounds emitted by the dolphins and toothed whales that eat them.

Mooney says researchers are working to better understand how the motion-based hearing mechanism of squid works.

"The idea is maybe if these guys do have a primitive sense of hearing, can we use them as a model to understand the foundation of hearing or how hearing is lost," he said, adding the research could ultimately be applicable to human hearing.

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Thailand closes dive spots due to reef damage
Bangkok (AFP) Jan 21, 2011
Thailand has closed a host of popular dive sites to tourists indefinitely to allow coral reefs to recover from widespread bleaching caused by warmer sea temperatures, authorities said Friday. In total 18 areas in seven marine parks are off-limits, according to an order by the Thai National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department. "Diving in all the spots is to be halted indefini ... read more

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