- California Names Leatherback Sea Turtle Official State Marine Reptile
- Goliath Grouper Makes a Strong Comeback in Florida
- Coral Hot Spots Discovered Off East Coast of US
They have outlived the dinosaurs and are the largest marine turtles on the planet, yet leatherback sea turtles are some of the most endangered creatures in the Pacific, primarily due to egg poaching, plastic pollution, and becoming the accidental bycatch of other fisheries. However, the state of California intends to increase protection for the ancient reptile species by naming it the official marine reptile of California. October 15, 2013 will mark the first official Leatherback Conservation Day in California, where educators will be encouraged to highlight the reptile’s life and migration, its importance to California coastal ecosystems for preying on annual jellyfish blooms, and the species’ struggle to endure and what measures must be taken to ensure its survival.
After being fished nearly to extinction in the 1980s, the Goliath grouper was declared off-limits to anglers by NOAA and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWCC) in the south Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico in 1990, an action that has produced very positive results. Divers exploring wrecks off the coast of Jupiter, Florida have observed large schools of Goliath groupers, in numbers that are continually growing. Researchers studying the life, movement, reproduction, and diet of the enormous species have tagged more than 400 individuals over the last two years, including a recent weekend in which 80 were caught, tagged, and released in just 3 days. The population growth of the Goliath grouper has incited fishermen to call for the reopening of the fishery, but officials have stated that it will remain closed until scientists from NOAA and FFWC undertake a stock assessment that will begin in 2015.
While surveying underwater canyons off the east coast of the US, researchers stumbled upon an unexpected discovery: hot spots of deep sea corals. The survey is the first in decades to search for corals and sponges in the area, and is being conducted in order to help scientists develop a computer model that will allow them to find other such hot spots. Over the course of two weeks, thousands of photographs were taken of the corals, living in depths of 650 to 6,500 feet in submarine canyons that stretch from the coast of New Jersey to Nova Scotia. More than 70 submarine canyons lie along the continental shelf and slope of northeastern North America, few of which are well-studied. The photographs will be analyzed in the coming months to determine what species exist in the canyons, with new species of various marine life likely to be discovered.