Record Numbers of Endangered Green Sea Turtles Return to Florida to Nest

All seven species of sea turtles are at risk of extinction. But there is hope for one sub-population in Florida.

In 2015, researchers counted 14,152 turtle nests in the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, the principal green sea turtle nesting habitat in North America. This number broke the previous record of just under 13,000 in 2013 and completely shattered past yearly totals, ranging from slightly below 200 in 2001 to slightly over 6,000 in 2011.

Executive director of the Sea Turtle Conservancy David Godfrey says:

“From any spot on the beach during the peak of nesting, we might just within eyesight see see maybe 10 turtles. And imagine, all these turtles are approaching 300 pounds each…That’s a phenomenon we have not seen before in Florida.”

Photo by Florida Fish and Wildlife / CC BY-ND 2.0
Photo by Florida Fish and Wildlife / CC BY-ND 2.0

Green sea turtles lay between 75 and 200 eggs per nest, so this past season may have produced as many as 3 million babies. However, because of all the threats they face, such as hungry gulls and fishing nets, only a fraction of these nestlings will likely survive to maturity.

Fortunately, this should still be enough for future viable nesting seasons. In fact, the 2015 turnout was so significant that the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is preparing to downgrade the turtle’s conservation status on the federal list from “endangered” to “threatened.”

Photo by Keenan Adams, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region / CC BY 2.0
Photo by Keenan Adams, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region / CC BY 2.0

The Archie Carr refuge was established in 1990 and since then, the green sea turtle nesting numbers have steadily risen. Lending to this increase are the efforts of conservationists, government officials and residents to reduce pollution and other human effects.

Godfrey says:

“We’re really seeing the fruits of all that work now with the exponential growth in green turtle nesting. That is what it takes with sea turtles in particular, because they grow so slowly. Those hatchlings from 30 years ago are reaching adulthood and coming back.”

 
 
Featured image by Keenan Adams, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region / CC BY 2.0

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New Zealand To Create One of the Largest Marine Protected Areas in the World

Spanning almost 240,000 square miles, New Zealand’s new Kermadec ocean sanctuary will be one of the largest and most significant fully protected ecosystems in the world.

The sanctuary will be located approximately 620 miles north-east of New Zealand in the South Pacific Ocean and will expand over an existing protected marine area surrounding the Kermadec Islands. It will be 35 times bigger than the combined area of New Zealand’s existing 44 marine reserves, twice the size of New Zealand’s landmass and will cover 15% of its exclusive economic zone.

This area is considered critical for biodiversity with 150 kinds of fish, 35 species of whales and dolphins, three of the world’s seven endangered sea turtles, more than six million seabirds from 39 different species and many creatures unique to the area such as corals, shellfish and crabs.

Additionally, the area is geologically significant, housing the world’s longest chain of underwater volcanoes and the second deepest ocean trench at over 6 miles.

One of the most important protections for the ocean sanctuary will be a ban on commercial and recreational fishing, along with oil, gas and mineral prospecting, exploration and mining. New Zealand plans to monitor the protected are via navy and satellite technology. The government hopes to establish the sanctuary next year. New Zealand prime minister John Key said:

“The Kermadecs is a world-class, unspoiled marine environment and New Zealand is proud to protect it for future generations. New Zealanders value our coasts and oceans, which are an important part of our culture, economy and environment and we are committed to managing them sustainably. Creating protected areas will support not only our own fisheries, but those of our Pacific neighbors, adding to New Zealand’s efforts to help grow Pacific economies through the responsible management of their ocean resources.”

The new Kermadec sanctuary will join three other key areas in the Pacific ocean, protected by the U.S., U.K. and Australia.

Kermadec Map

 
 
Featured image by Joanna Penn / CC BY 2.0

Secretarybird in South Africa

Photo by Crystian Cruz / CC BY-ND 2.0

Secretarybird in South Africa

The Top 10 Types of Trash Found in the Ocean and More [INFOGRAPHIC]

What is the most common type of trash in our oceans? And which ones are the most deadly?

More than 560,000 volunteers in 91 countries spanned over 13,000 miles in the 2014 International Coastal Cleanup. And over 16 million pounds of trash were collected in last year’s Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup program.

The data from the program, dating back 30 years, in addition to a survey of 274 experts, was put into a study that ranked their findings.

The most common types of trash found were cigarette butts, food wrappers, bottles and bottle caps. And some of the deadliest types for marine mammals, turtles and seabirds included fishing gear, plastic bags and utensils, balloons, cigarette butts and bottle caps.

See the report by the numbers with Ocean Conservancy’s infographics:

top-ten-items-infographic

entangled-animals-infographic

weird-finds-infographic

tiny-trash-infographic

plastics-infographic

people-pounds-and-miles

 
 
Featured image by USFWS – Pacific Region / CC BY 2.0

Climate Change May Actually Benefit Endangered Galápagos Penguins

Thought climate change was bad for everyone? Think again. It may actually have benefits to the only penguin native to the northern hemisphere, the Galápagos penguin.

According to a study led by researchers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, shifting equatorial winds and water temperatures – potentially related to climate change – have caused an undersea river to reach the Galápagos Islands. The river, called the Equatorial Undercurrent, creates a steady flow of cold ocean water that has revitalized food sources on the western side of the Galápagos, where a majority of the penguins live.

Now that the Galápagos penguins have more fish to eat, they’ve hatched more babies who make it to adulthood, more than tripling their numbers. 15 years ago, there were just a few hundred, but today there are over 1,000 penguins.

Photo by Rodrigo Soldon 2 / CC BY-ND 2.0
Photo by Rodrigo Soldon 2 / CC BY-ND 2.0

The refreshed food supply has also been good for fur seals and iguanas in the region. Associate scientist with Woods Hole and lead author of the study Kristopher B. Karnauskas says:

“When you see a cold pool of water where you’d expect to see warm water, that indicates something is mixing that water up from below. That water is feeding everything from plankton on up. It has been strengthening in the past 30 years and expanding northward…The sea surface temperature trend shows that just to the north of where most of the penguins are has become more of a suitable environment than it was in the past.”

Photo by Charles Pence / CC BY-SA 2.0
Photo by Charles Pence / CC BY-SA 2.0

Karnauskas believes the findings in his study can help conserve and increase the Galápagos penguin population. But he is only cautiously optimistic because rising ocean temperatures are still harmful to the rest of the world’s marine habitats. Karnauskas explains:

“This could be interpreted as ‘Global warming is good for penguins.’ I think that’s glossing over the details too much. The Galápagos happens to be this little outpost that, at least in the near term, is benefiting from changes in ocean circulation that could be driven by anthropogenic climate change. But I wouldn’t necessarily count on this saving them forever.”

Featured image by zpics / CC BY-ND 2.0

What the Reef Looks Like Through the Eyes of a Turtle [VIDEO]

Ever wonder what it would be like to be an animal swimming in the Great Barrier Reef? Now you can find out, thanks to a helpful turtle and a GoPro. See what the reef looks like through the eyes of one of its very own inhabitants.

Meet the Animals that Became Endangered Last Year

As we venture farther into 2016, it’s always good to reflect back on the previous year. Today, we are reflecting on animals that were either declared endangered or were upgraded from endangered to critically endangered in 2015.

1. Mexican Wolf

Photo by Eric Kilby / CC BY-SA 2.0
Photo by Eric Kilby / CC BY-SA 2.0
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) declared the Mexican Wolf as endangered earlier in 2015. Over-hunting almost wiped out the entire population 40 years ago. Now, the Mexican Wolf has new protections to conserve this rare mammal.

 
2. Sawfish

Photo by Simon Fraser University - University Communications / CC BY 2.0
Photo by Simon Fraser University – University Communications / CC BY 2.0
The USFWS placed multiple species of sawfish on the endangered species list in 2015. Several populations have fallen victim to overfishing and negative human factors.

 
3. Steppe Eagle

Photo by Bernard DUPONT / CC BY-SA 2.0
Photo by Bernard DUPONT / CC BY-SA 2.0
The Steppe Eagle was upgraded to “endangered” this year by the IUCN because of changes to the raptor’s environment. Habitat disturbances, such as agricultural development and a veterinary drug spreading toxic effects through its ecosystem, have caused the eagle’s population to drastically drop.

 
4. New Zealand Sea Lion

Photo by Rosino / CC BY-SA 2.0
Photo by Rosino / CC BY-SA 2.0
The IUCN classified the New Zealand Sea Lion as endangered due to “fishing-related mortality” and other threats from disease and food limitations. It is one of the rarest sea lions in the world with a population of around 10,000 and decreasing.

 
5. White Headed Vulture

Photo by Bernard DUPONT / CC BY-SA 2.0
Photo by Bernard DUPONT / CC BY-SA 2.0
In 2015, the IUCN upgraded the status of the White Headed Vulture from threatened to critically endangered. The vulture’s population has declined because of human threats, including poisonings and persecution.

 
6. Great Green Macaw & Military Macaw

Photo by Susanne Nilsson / CC BY-SA 2.0
Photo by Susanne Nilsson / CC BY-SA 2.0
The USFWS listed both the Great Green Macaw and the Military Macaw as endangered in October, 2015. The two species’ already small populations are declining due to poaching and habitat loss, fragmentation and degradation.

 
7. Ishikawa’s Frog

Photo by Patrick Randall / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Photo by Patrick Randall / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
The IUCN declared the Ishikawa’s Frog, a Japanese amphibian, as an endangered species in 2015. The frog population is in serious decline because of habitat loss from dam and road construction.

 
8. Honduran Emerald Hummingbird

Photo by Dominic Sherony / CC BY-SA 2.0
Photo by Dominic Sherony / CC BY-SA 2.0
The USFWS classified the Honduran hummingbird as endangered in 2015, which gives federal officials in the U.S. the authority to prosecute anyone smuggling the bird across the border. The population has dropped to 5,000-10,000 breeding pairs after facing habitat loss and other human-related changes.

 
9. Narrow-striped Mongoose (also known as Boky Boky)

Photo by Marie Hale / CC BY 2.0
Photo by Marie Hale / CC BY 2.0
In 2015, the IUCN placed the Narrow-striped Mongoose, also know as the boky boky, on the endangered list. The small Madagascan mammal’s population has been negatively affected by hunting, logging and several environmental factors.

 
10. Splendid Toadfish

Photo by Tam Warner Minton / CC BY-SA 2.0
Photo by Tam Warner Minton / CC BY-SA 2.0
The IUCN upgraded the Splendid Toadfish from threatened to endangered in 2015 because of tourism and over-fishing. It is a mud-dwelling fish that lives in the waters of Cozumel and Belize, but has experienced habitat loss with decreasing coral reefs.

 
 
Featured image by Eric Kilby / CC BY-SA 2.0

Dall Sheep in the Mountains

Photo by NPS Photo/Katie Thoresen, Denali National Park and Preserve / CC BY 2.0

Dall Sheep in the Mountains

Caught on Camera: Extremely Rare Javan Rhino Babies [VIDEO]

The Javan rhino is one of the most rare and endangered rhinos in the world. After capturing these three Javan calves on camera in Indonesia’s Ujung Kulon National Park, the tiny rhino population rises from 57 to 60. The calves, which consist of females and one male, have been captured by forest cameras at various times in 2015.

Seabird Populations Have Declined By 70% Over the Past 50 Years

According to a recent study, seabirds have faced a massive drop in numbers – approximately 70% over the last 60 years.

Seabirds are those that forage primarily at the sea, such as pelicans, gulls, albatross, penguins and more. The study covered half of the 325 species of seabirds that exist and collected data from as far back as the 1950s, with most of the information from the 70s and 80s.

The findings showed that, of the monitored populations that make up 19% of the world’s seabirds, there was a total decline of 70%. That accounts for a loss of around 230 million birds since the 1950s.

But the drop in numbers isn’t that surprising, as seabirds have faced increasing threats for decades. Threats range from food depletion, fishing gear, pollution, non-native predators and climate change.

Photo by Tilemahos Efthimiadis / CC BY-SA 2.0
Photo by Tilemahos Efthimiadis / CC BY-SA 2.0

Seabirds are very important to both marine and terrestrial ecosystems. They are part of a delicate food chain and also enrich the terrestrial ecosystem through fertilization. Their disappearance would be tragic, as well as have a negative impact on the food chain and ecosystems.

Study co-author Michelle Paleczny explains:

“Seabirds are threatened by a suite of different human activities in the world’s oceans. [They] play an important role in how the marine food web works. Removing seabirds from the food web would alter the overall health of the marine and coastal ecosystems.”

How can we help? The public can help by reducing pollution, particularly plastic pollution and fossil fuel consumption. People can also lobby the goverment or vote to support large marine protective areas that provide refuge for seabirds.

Featured image by Tony Fischer / CC BY 2.0