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The Blog Aquatic

News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy

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Scientists Discover How BP Oil Affects Tuna Hearts

Posted On February 24, 2014 by

Photo: NOAA

During the spring and summer of 2010, the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster released over 4 million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. This was an unprecedented amount of toxic material discharged into the Gulf, and scientists have been researching its impacts on marine and coastal wildlife ever since. One of the species of concern is the imperiled Atlantic bluefin tuna, which was spawning at the time and location of the BP disaster.

In a new study, scientists from Stanford University and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) discovered that crude oil, specifically polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), disrupts the cellular pathway that allows juvenile bluefin and yellowfin tuna heart cells to beat effectively. This causes a slowed heart rate, reduced ability of muscular heart tissue to contract, and irregular heartbeats that can lead to cardiac arrest and death.

Crude oil is known to be toxic to the developing hearts of fish embryos and larvae, reducing the likelihood that those fish will survive. But until now, the details of how crude oil harmed fish hearts were unclear.

Continue reading »

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Building a Mosaic of Restoration Projects for the Gulf

Posted On July 19, 2012 by

sea turtle mosaic

Credit: luxomedia flickr stream

The BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster harmed communities from Texas to Florida and damaged the Gulf ecosystem from the ocean floor to the surface across a vast swath of waters and shoreline. Restoring these damaged resources will require a comprehensive, Gulf-wide restoration plan that covers coastal environments, blue-water resources and Gulf communities.

Because wildlife like birds, fish and marine mammals move throughout the ecosystem making use of coastal, nearshore and offshore environments, effective restoration requires a holistic approach. For example, restoration efforts for oyster reefs or barrier islands in Texas should complement the work done in Alabama or in Florida so that the full suite of species and habitats can recover.

The state and federal officials responsible for creating such a plan, the Natural Resources Damage Assessment (NRDA) Trustees, are making decisions about how to spend the balance of the $1 billion committed by BP for early restoration. The decisions they make about early restoration and about the longer-term restoration program to follow have the potential to pay enormous dividends to the Gulf for generations.

To help the Trustees build an effective plan, a coalition of nonprofit groups, including Ocean Conservancy, has created a portfolio of 39 projects that reflect an integrated and Gulf-wide approach to restoration. Continue reading »

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Living in a Connected World: Lessons from Radioactivity in Tuna

Posted On June 1, 2012 by

Bluefin tuna in the Gulf of Mexico, credit: NOAA

In the arc of human history, it is only very recently that we have begun to live in a connected world. Long before Facebook and Twitter, human populations were separated by continents — and oceans — in ways that limited cultural and information exchange. It turns out the oceans are much more connected. This was brought home this week in a new scientific publication – and subsequent blog by my colleague Carl Safina – that unequivocally showed that Pacific bluefin tuna had transported radiation from the March 2011 Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant meltdown in Japan to the shores of California.

For many, this news will beg the question: “Should I avoid eating bluefin tuna?” The answer is unequivocally, “yes,” but not because of the radiation – which is at levels low enough that it won’t have an effect on humans – but because of sustainability. The Monterey Bay Aquarium rates bluefin as “avoid” because because they are being caught faster than they can reproduce. Attention sushi lovers: Bluefin is also known as hon maguro or toro (tuna belly). If you see it on the menu, and you care about the future of fish, you should avoid it. If conservation concerns don’t motivate you, the high price alone may steer you away. Continue reading »