Showing posts tagged as "conservation"
Killer sponges! Sounds like creatures from a B-grade horror movie, doesn’t it? In fact, they thrive in the lightless depths of the deep sea. Learn more about the latest finds from our sister organization, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI).
Update: Apparently the dad changed his mind, and is no longer brooding the two young ones. The good news: we have taken them back in for care, as we have done many times before, and the prognosis for successful re-release is excellent!
We recently re-united to snowy plover chicks with their father on a nearby beach. The tagged chicks were mistakenly picked up by beachgoers who thought they were abandoned, and brought to the Aquarium for care. The adult plover still had one chick with him, and representatives of California State Parks and Point Blue put a small cage over the chick to keep the parent close by until we could arrive with the other two. We then placed all three chicks in the enclosure to give the dad a chance to see them. After ensuring that the male was interested in the chicks, we removed the cage and he began caring for all three once again. Success!
Once numbering in the thousands, U.S. Pacific coast western snowy plovers were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1993. Today it’s estimated that only about 2,100 plovers breed along the coast, with the largest number found from south San Francisco Bay to southern Baja California. You can help keep adult plovers from abandoning their nests. Keep your dog on a leash on beaches during snowy plover breeding season and stay out of areas that have been blocked off as bird nesting sights.
Did you know that sunken logs can create new worlds for seafloor animals? Recent deep-sea research by our sister organization, The Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, shows that even bits of waterlogged dead wood can support thriving communities of animals, where wood-boring clams serve as “ecosystem engineers.”
Help keep an otter happy! It’s not too late for California residents to “check the box” on state tax forms to help save sea otters. The fund supports researchers and partners trying to understand the issues facing the threatened southern sea otter—and help the population recover.
Coming in Like a Lion(fish)
March is supposed to come in like a lion and go out like a lamb as stormy winter weather gives way to a milder spring. Now April is coming in like a lion, too – with the latest addition to our Splash Zone galleries.
The new arrival – the captivating and beautiful lionfish – isn’t just another pretty face. It’s an infamous fish that carries an important conservation message.
Far from Home
Native to the Indo-Pacific and Red Sea, lionfish are fabulous residents of their home waters. Unfortunately, they were introduced to waters off the U.S. east coast in the mid-1980s and are now a destructive invasive species from the mid-Atlantic through Florida, the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean and into Central and South America.
Cause for Concern
Their fluttering maroon-and-white-striped dorsal fins hide venomous spines that require our husbandry teams to take extra precautions around them. Yet the bigger concern is the threat these fish pose to ecosystems in waters where they don’t belong.
Invasive lionfish have no natural predators outside their home waters, and they compete with native fish for both food and habitat. Lionfish have a hearty appetite for commercially and ecologically important native fish species, and are able to thrive in waters from the shoreline to depths of more than 400 feet. In warmer waters, females are capable of spawning 30,000 eggs every four days, making them prolific breeders and poster fish for invasive species.
The Edible Invader
Our exhibit lionfish were collected from the Florida Keys, where the species has taken a foot – or rather fin – hold since 2009. Absent other lionfish predators, people have adopted the mantra “Eat ‘em to beat ‘em” to encourage consumption of these marine invaders. (They are as tasty as they are beautiful.)
Got questions? We’ve got answers—from animal names to conservation issues. Check out our latest podcast!
Boater Alert: Go Slow Around Sea Otters
With the start of California’s recreational salmon season only days away, we remind boaters to keep an eye out for sea otters and go slow in waters where otters hang out. By observing no-wake laws and being extra vigilant near harbors and kelp beds, boaters can do their part to prevent accidental boat strikes that kill and injure sea otters.
Go Slow In The Slough
The Aquarium, along with Moss Landing Harbor District, Friends of the Sea Otter and other local organizations, ask boaters heading out from Moss Landing Harbor and Elkhorn Slough to protect the resident population of sea otters. Otters in the harbor and slough form part of a research population that biologists have studied for years. Data from ongoing research studies could be important to the survival of this threatened species.
In the past decade, boat strikes have contributed to the deaths of 35 sea otters in California – many in coastal waters between Moss Landing and Santa Cruz. Most boat strike deaths occur in April and May, coinciding with increased boating activity and possibly the openings of salmon (April) and rockfish (May) seasons.
Every Otter Matters
Sea otters face a number of complicated threats to their recovery including disease, pollution and food availability, but deaths from boat strikes are easily preventable when boaters are attentive and maintain slower speeds.
Recreational salmon season opens Saturday, April 5, and runs until April 30. As in past years, volunteers with the Aquarium, Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and other organizations will be out for opening weekend, talking with anglers before they launch and caution everyone to slow down.
Professional educators are an essential part of our conservation mission—each year hundreds of teachers and administrators come to the Aquarium to enhance their knowledge of our oceans and learn classroom activities.
Teacher program applications due soon: March 31 for secondary programs, and April 7 for elementary programs.
Just a few weeks left! California residents, please “check the box” on your state tax form to help save sea otters! The fund supports researchers and partners who are working to understand the impacts facing the threatened southern sea otter, and to find ways to recover the population in California. (Gerry Lemmo)
Exxon Valdez — 25 Years Later
When the Exxon Valdez spilled 11 million gallons of crude oil into Prince William Sound, Alaska 25 years ago, the Monterey Bay Aquarium sea otter team was among the first responders to the March 24, 1989 disaster. We were the only institution on the West Coast with experience rescuing and raising ill and orphaned sea otters, and we played a central role in setting up two emergency centers that cleaned and cared for surviving otters. (Between 1,000 and 5,500 sea otters died in the spill.)
We also brought two orphaned pups to Monterey (similar to the pup shown above) and raised them until they found homes at the Vancouver Aquarium.
This year, the sea otter population in Prince William Sound was finally declared recovered from the effects of the spill. For other species, the picture hasn’t been as rosy. A resident killer whale population may go extinct; the pigeon guillemot seabirds found in the region and a once-robust herring fishery have not bounced back.
New research on crude oil impacts
There’s new evidence, published this year by our partners at the Tuna Research and Conservation Center, that for the first time pinpoints significant long-term impacts from crude oil on ocean wildlife. Their published studies, conducted in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, document how crude oil affects the developing hearts of larval fishes caught in spills. They also show a possible link between compounds in oil and long-term risks to cardiac health in many animals exposed to the compounds – including sea otters and even humans.
Even before we opened our doors to the public in 1984, the Aquarium began caring for stranded and orphaned California sea otters. Today, 30 years later, we’re more involved than ever – and in more ways than ever – on behalf of a future with healthy oceans.
A sobering reminder
The 25th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill is a sobering reminder of how much is at stake.
It’s also a reminder that we can make a difference: if we’re prepared to respond, if we invest in scientific research to understand long-term impacts, and when we work for policies that protect key species and critical ocean ecosystems.
The Aquarium is active on all these fronts – and working just as hard to inspire new generations who will give a voice to ocean issues. We couldn’t do it without your help.