This week’s top tweets include a mix of cute videos and important scientific finds–a great combination, if you ask me.
1. We Keep Getting Older, They Stay the Same Size–Or Do They?!
Our most popular tweet of the week was definitely worth talking about. The news that suggests fish do not grow as large or mature as quickly as they used to is troubling at the very least. Some scientists claim that the size restrictions for catching fish is actually inducing this problem by encouraging fish to adapt via earlier maturation. This is a long-term issue that scientists will continue to monitor over time.
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Nothing exemplifies the challenges of managing reef fish quite like the woeful tale of Nassau grouper. Once an iconic emblem of healthy Caribbean reefs (see Carmen Yeung’s recent post on endangered corals) and a staple of subsistence fisheries, this shallow water grouper is now threatened with extinction throughout most of its natural range.
Despite its large range — and area through the Caribbean and some of North and South America’s Atlantic Ocean — several characteristics of this grouper species make it particularly vulnerable to depletion:
- These fish grow slowly,
- don’t reproduce until later in life,
- appear in shallow waters close to shore and thus human populations, and
- they are popular at the dinner table.
While these things don’t necessarily condemn a fish to threatened or endangered status, one particular trait of the Nassau grouper does: They reproduce only once per year at the same place, at the same time and they do so by the tens of thousands. Or they did.
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Credit: Mario Chow
Corals are in trouble, but they could soon receive the help they need.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) proposed listing 66 species of reef-building corals under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), which is a step in the right direction for coral conservation. Being added to the Endangered Species list is more than a title upgrade (or downgrade, really). Listing species as endangered would prohibit harming, wounding or killing the species. It also prohibits the extraction of listed species, which includes importing or exporting the corals.
What has made these corals candidates for the list? A number of things: pollution, warming waters, overfishing and ocean acidification threaten the survival of corals. These threats can make corals more susceptible to disease and mortality. Protections like endangered species listing are vital to preserving coral from threats and helping them cope with changing environmental conditions.
Corals are tremendously important economically and environmentally. Corals provide habitat to support fisheries that feed millions of people; create jobs and income for coastal economies through tourism, recreation and fisheries; and protect coastlines from storm damage. One independent study found that coral reefs provided about $483 million in annual net benefit to the U.S. economic from recreation and tourism activities. Marine life, such as fish, crustaceans and sea turtles rely on corals for food, shelter and nursery grounds. Over 25% of fish in the ocean and up to two million marine species use coral reefs as their home. Because of their significance, supporting NOAA’s proposed ESA listing for 66 coral species is incredibly important to their survival and our local economies.
Credit: U.S. Geological Survey
Two critically imperiled species of fish in the South Atlantic must be protected from overfishing immediately, according to a lawsuit filed today by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Ocean Conservancy.
Speckled hind and Warsaw grouper are “extremely vulnerable to overfishing,” according to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), as they grow slowly, can live up to 40 years, and tend to spawn in groups. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature classifies Warsaw grouper and speckled hind as “critically endangered,” and they are listed as “endangered” by the American Fisheries Society. NMFS has listed both as “Species of Concern,” one step short of Endangered Species Act listing.
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