- Australian MP Proposes Bounty on Crown of Thorns Starfish
- Environmental Factors Pinpointed in Manta Ray Behavior
- First Arctic Observatory Installed in Nunavut
A report from the Australian Institute of Marine Science that shows 40 percent of damage done to the Great Barrier Reef over the last 30 years can be attributed to growing populations of crown of thorns starfish has led Australian MP Bob Katter to propose that a bounty be paid to divers and tourists to collect the pests from the reef and turn them in. Crown of thorns starfish prey primarily on the polyps of hard corals, which grow at a much slower rate than soft corals. The idea has met with opposition from members of the Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators, who note that the spines of the crown of thorns starfish contain a potent toxin that causes pain and swelling in human puncture victims, making it less likely that untrained tourists will participate in the cull. The mayor of Cairns has suggested that the bounty money would be better spent on research to determine why crown of thorns starfish are on the rise, and how to stifle their rapid reproduction.
A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Queensland and volunteer SCUBA divers has revealed environmental factors that play a key role in the behavior of manta rays on the Great Barrier Reef, in particular Lady Elliot Island. Of the 7 sites surveyed around the island, 5 were determined to be foraging hot spots for large groups of mantas, during which aggregates of 80 or more rays could be found engaging in the activity together. Other sites were noted to be designated cleaning stations, or just spots for manta “cruising.” The population of mantas was found to be higher during autumn and winter months, as well as during the new or full moon. The research will be helpful in managing manta populations not only on the Great Barrier Reef, but elsewhere in the world as well.
Scientists looking to study environmental factors in the frigid reaches of the Arctic Ocean have recently received a helping hand in the form of an underwater observatory, the first of its kind to be installed in the Arctic. Modeled after observatories currently in use around Vancouver Island and the Strait of Georgia, the Arctic observatory has been redesigned to withstand the extreme conditions of the region, which is almost completely covered in sea ice from November to July and can see temperatures as low as -40C. The new underwater observatory was placed on the seafloor of Cambridge Bay, a hamlet of the Canadian territory Nunavut, and will relay information about water temperature, pressure, oxygenation, and ice thickness to an onshore monitoring station. The data will be instrumental in monitoring climate change in the near and long term future.