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Page 12. MAINE COASTAL NEWS October 2012

New Research Published on Climate Change Impacts on Marine Predators September 24, 2012


Unlike human habitat, temperatures in the marine environment cannot be con- trolled by a thermostat. So what do ma- rine animals do when the heat cranks up?

NOAA Fisheries scientist Elliott Hazen led a research team with 11 U.S. and Canadian scientists to fi nd out exactly how climate change impacts apex predators—animals at the top of the food chain. The results of their work are now published in Nature Climate Change in this paper.

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Based out of the Southwest Fisheries Science Center in Pacifi c Grove, California, Dr. Hazen combined information from the 4,300 apex predators tagged through the Tagging of Pacifi c Predators (TOPP) Pro- gram and climate change scenarios based on predictions by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. By the year 2100, Hazen and his colleagues found some predators could be facing up to a 35 percent loss of habitat as the ocean water with their preferred temperature moves northward. Dr. Hazen predicted different responses

from different predator “guilds” like sea- birds, sharks, tunas, turtles, whales, seals, and sea lions. Those that have a very special- ized diet and limited range of temperatures they can tolerate, such as salmon sharks, blue sharks, and mako sharks face the big- gest challenges. Others, like seabirds and tunas, might actually see their habitat grow. Two of the most important habitats in



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the Pacifi c Ocean are known as the North Pacifi c Transition Zone and the California Current and they fared very differently. Mi- gratory species that head to the North Pacifi c Transition Zone for the cooler temperatures might fi nd their route a bit longer as the zone moves as much as 600 miles northward. Those who stay within the California Cur- rent—right along the coast of California— may do better, as the massive upwelling of nutrients helps protect the zone from major changes even as the temperature warms. Dr. Hazen chose to study apex predators because they help control and structure food webs in the ocean. His study is the fi rst to use not only sea surface temperature predic- tions, but also models of chlorophyll-a, the green pigment found in phytoplankton, the microscopic plant-like plankton that are at the bottom of the food web. Where phyto- plankton are abundant, zooplankton, small fi sh, larger fi sh, and apex predators are sure to follow.

This study leverages the resources of NOAA, NASA, National Science Foun- dation, and a number of international part- ners engaged in characterizing the marine environment by using direct and remote- ly-sensed measurements and integrating numerical simulations. Dr. Hazen hopes his fi ndings can iden- tify which species are the most vulnerable to new threats so we can focus conservation efforts on those who need it most.

NOAA announces grants to predict ocean acidifi cation’s effects on commercial fi sheries

September 19, 2012

As scientists continue to research ways in which the oceans are changing – and what these changes mean for fi sh populations, three new research projects will receive funding to examine the effects of ocean acidifi cation on fi sheries, and the coastal economies that depend upon them. Ocean acidifi cation occurs when the ocean absorbs carbon dioxide from the at- mosphere, making it more acidic. Species as diverse as scallops and coral are vulnerable to ocean acidifi cation, which can affect the growth of their shells and skeletons. The grants, totaling nearly $1.6 million over three years, will go to: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution: $682,000 to understand the connection between fl uctu- ations of carbon dioxide levels and ocean scallop populations, harvest and economic conditions; The State University of New York at Stony Brook: $533,000 to examine bay scallops and hard clams to determine acidifi cation’s effects on each species and identify the most vulnerable regions of es- tuaries; and The University of Washington: $374,000 to study a large climate model with fi sh populations and economic models in order to predict ocean conditions and economic effects. “Efforts to estimate the effect of ocean

acidifi cation on fi shery populations will be valuable to our own work,” said Jona- than Hare, oceanography branch chief of NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Cen- ter. “The goal is to incorporate the effects of ocean acidifi cation into advice provided to the regional fi shery management councils.” The monetary value of scallops and clams both as seafood and for their ability to clean the water surrounding them is in the billions of dollars annually, according to a NOAA study. Knowing how increased acid- ity will affect shellfi sh and the communities who depend on them will help resource managers develop strategies to prepare for the future. Valuable Pacifi c fi sh, such as sablefi sh,

hake, and rockfi sh depend upon food sources vulnerable to more acidic seas. But scientists know less about how ocean acidifi cation can affect the whole ecosystem surround- ing these species. Some species may be more susceptible to ocean acidifi cation than others, and these species might need closer management. Knowing where and when any effects might be felt is also important to developing fi shery management plans. NOAA works closely with regional

fi shery management councils as fi shery management plans are developed, and then reviews, approves, and implements the

plans. This research will help the councils plan for future effects of ocean acidifi cation. These awards are managed by the

NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science and Ocean Acidifi cation Pro- gram. These research awards complement ongoing work within NOAA that monitors acidifi cation and determines its effects on marine populations.

Feeds of the Future: Developing Alternative Aquaculture Feeds September 20, 2012

Aquaculture is the world’s fast- est-growing form of food production and a vital component of our food supply. But the industry’s growing demand for fi sh feed, which is derived mainly from wild popu- lations of smaller fi sh such as anchovies and sardines, will soon outstrip supply. Can we replace wild-caught fi sh in the diets of farmed fi sh so that the aquaculture indus- try’s continued growth will be sustainable? Researchers from NOAA and the US De- partment of Agriculture have been working on this problem and a report released this month, The Future of Aquafeeds, details their progress. Fish not eating fi sh Most of the fi nfi sh that people like to eat – such as tuna, salmon, and bass – feed on smaller fi sh and shellfi sh in the wild. Traditional aquaculture feeds are based on fi shmeal and oils that mimic that natural diet. But it turns out that, when raised on a farm, carnivorous fi sh don’t need to eat fi sh. According to Dr. Michael Rust, Aquaculture Research Program Manager at NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center, “All fi sh—carnivore, herbivore, and omnivore—require about 40 nutrients in the correct ratio. It doesn’t matter to the health of the fi sh where the nutrients come from. By incorporating marine algae, fi sh processing trimmings, and a variety of plant products, we can formulate high quality fi sh feeds without relying on wild-caught fi sh.” Scientists have been working to substi- tute ingredients in aquafeeds for years. But the NOAA-USDA Alternative Feeds Initia- tive has accelerated this progress by sup- porting federal scientists and their partners in academia and industry. “We are getting to the point,” says Rust, “that substituting for fi shmeal and oil is an increasingly viable option.”

The need for alternatives This option couldn’t come too soon, as the wild populations of small fi sh used to produce fi sh feed are subject to increasing demand from a variety of sources. One indication is the price of fi shmeal, which has nearly tripled between 2002 and 2010. Ecological limits apply too. The forage fi sh used in fi shmeal play an important role in marine ecosystems by supporting commer- cially valuable populations of wild fi sh such as tuna and swordfi sh, as well as marine mammals and other ocean life.

The challenge has been to develop eco- nomically-viable alternative aquafeeds that maintain the nutritional quality of farmed seafood. Fish are considered a “superfood” in part because they are rich in heart- and brain-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. These compounds will only reach the consumer’s plate if they are present in the feed used on fi sh farms.

Collaboration leads to results

The Future of Aquafeeds -- a collabo- ration among stakeholders from a variety of disciplines -- outlines key fi ndings and recommendations and includes seven case studies that demonstrate how this can be accomplished. In one, researchers develop improved methods to process seaweeds, which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, into

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