Ecosystems and Biodiversity

Three new species of snailfish have been discovered living 7.5 kilometres below the surface of the ocean. These snailfish have gel-like bodies that are actually together by the crushing pressures of their deep-ocean surroundings. (About 800 bars of pressure or 11, 603 pounds per square inch.)  If raised to shallower waters, they would melt. Via The Guardian

A study by UBC and the University of Hong Kong  identified that deliberate shark catches have increased sharply, with over one million tonnes of sharks being killed every year. This unsustainable practice contributes to more than 60% of shark species being threatened, with 25% of species heading towards extinction. The authors of the paper have called for consumers to remove shark fin soup from their diet. Via Science Daily

Shark week, shark conservation

Great white shark populations are making an impressive comeback on California’s coast – is that a good thing for beach-goers? Photo Credit: Caterina Gennaro, Marine Photobank.

The great white shark has made a modest recovery on the California cost, owing to protection from fishing and efforts to boost the marine-mammal population that serve as prey for great whites. With a greater number of sharks comes greater potential for human interaction, and although the number of bites has not increased, authorities are eager to know the presence of sharks near well-used beaches. A new test detects environmental DNA (eDNA) from great whites in ocean water samples. This technique can not only improve scientists understanding of the  population, but it could let lifeguards know when the sharks are in the area. Via EurekAlert!

It turns out that sea otter whiskers and paws are incredibly sensitive.

Sea otters have incredibly sensitive paws and whiskers, researchers from the University of Santa Cruz discovered recently. They trained an otter to respond, blindfolded, to grooves etched in a plate, and found that otters can distinguish within a fraction of a second between 2 millimeters  and 2.28 millimeters grooves using their paws, and 2 millimeters from 2.48 millimeters using their whiskers! This sensitivity likely allows them to quickly identify  prey while diving. Via

Water Quality and Supply

Recirculating Aquatic Systems (RAS) are a sustainable, and potentially more viable, way to farm fish in the future.

New advancements in water filtration technology should make indoor fish farming more viable in the near future. Indoor aquaculture could play a critical role in meeting the needs of a swelling human population, without the pollution and other potential threats to wild fish that  accompany ocean aquaculture. Recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) combine physical filters, bio-filters, and ozone to treat water, similar to an at-home fish tank, and may be able to be scaled up to apply to large indoor aquaculture facilities. Via Scientific American

Climate change is causing the Tropics to widen by 27 kilometres every decade.

A new study has demonstrated that the tropics are widening by an average of 27 kilometres per decade. This is good news in that the climate models that predicted this trend are accurate, but it’s bad news for half the world’s population that lives in subtropical or semi-arid climates. This expansion of the tropics could change local climate, by increasing desert regions that fringe the edges of the tropics. Via

Government Initiatives

Norway is making moves on emission-free seafaring. By 2026, the country plans to restrict world-heritage site fjords to emission-free vehicles only.  By 2030, Norway will begin restricting other fjords and Norwegian waters to ships with low or zero-emission technology. Norway is already on track to electrify much of its ferry fleet, with 63 new ferries in production, but much remains to be done on the heavily polluting cruise ships that  frequent the fjords. Via Hakai Magazine

Energy and Power

The world’s first hydrogen-powered train has taken to the rails in Germany, replacing diesel-powered units on a 100-kilometre branch line. The train burns hydrogen in fuel cells and stores excess energy in lithium-ion batteries and it has a range of about 1,000 km on a single tank. Lower Saxony will receive another 14 trains between now and 2021. Other European countries are  looking at introducing the hydrogen power to combat air pollution. Via


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