World’s largest sea turtle could come off ‘endangered’ list

A rare leatherback sea turtle named Yawkey moves off the beach and returns to the the Atlantic Ocean at Isle of Palms, S.C., after it was treated at the South Carolina Aquarium. (AP)
Updated 16 January 2018
0

World’s largest sea turtle could come off ‘endangered’ list

Federal ocean managers say it might be time to move the East Coast population of the world’s largest turtle from the United States’ list of endangered animals.
An arm of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has received a petition from a fishing group asking that the Northwest Atlantic Ocean’s leatherback sea turtles be listed as “threatened,” but not endangered, under the Endangered Species Act. The giant reptiles, which can weigh 2,000 pounds, would remain protected under federal law, but their status would be moved down a notch.
NOAA officials have said the agency has reviewed the petition from New Jersey-based Blue Water Fishermen’s Association and found “substantial scientific and commercial information” that the move might be warranted. The agency now has about eight months to make a decision about the status of the turtles.
Leatherbacks live all over the world’s oceans and have been listed as endangered by the US since 1970. Deciding whether the listing should be changed will require determining the stability of the population, said Jennifer Schultz, a fisheries biologist with NOAA Fisheries.
“We’ll look at scientific papers, we look at the best available scientific and commercial data,” she said. “And then we’ll say, ‘What does the status look like? How are they doing?’“
The fishing group that requested the change wants the Northwestern Atlantic’s leatherback population to be considered a distinct segment of the population. That segment would include all of the leatherbacks that nest on beaches in the eastern US states. But NOAA Fisheries is going to look at the status of the turtles worldwide, said Angela Somma, chief of endangered species division with NOAA Fisheries.
Blue Water Fishermen’s Association requested the change of listing in part to spur new research into the status of the leatherback population, said Ernie Panacek, a past president of the organization. Data about species such as sea turtles and marine mammals play a role in crafting fishing regulations, and fishermen fear the government is using outdated data about leatherbacks, he said.
“I get a little frustrated in the fact that they are making regulations without scientific data in front of them,” he said. “The more turtles there are, the more interactions you are bound to have with them.”
The leatherback sea turtle has been the subject of intense interest from conservation groups over the years. It’s listing as endangered by the US predates the modern Endangered Species Act that was enacted in 1973. The Costa Rica-based Leatherback Trust, an international nonprofit group, describes them as “ancient creatures celebrated in creation myths belonging to diverse cultures around the world.”
International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the leatherback sea turtle as “vulnerable,” which is one notch above “endangered” on the IUCN’s scale. It’s one of the largest reptiles on Earth, feeding mostly on jellyfish, which has left them at risk to plastic in the ocean, which can kill them if they ingest it. They are also notable for being the deepest diving and most migratory of all sea turtles, and for their lack of a bony shell.
NOAA is collecting information and comments on the subject until Feb. 5.


Crater bigger than Paris is discovered under Greenland ice

Videographic looking at the importance of ice shelves. A study shows that Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets will continue to shrink this century, even if warming is limited to less than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. (AFP)
Updated 15 November 2018
0

Crater bigger than Paris is discovered under Greenland ice

  • The discovery was initially made in the 2015 but an international team of researchers has been working to verify the findings ever since
  • There would have been debris projected into the atmosphere that would affect the climate and the potential for melting a lot of ice

TAMPA: A massive iron meteorite smashed into Greenland as recently as 12,000 years ago, leaving a crater bigger than Paris that was recently discovered beneath the ice with sophisticated radar, researchers said Wednesday.
The crater is the first of its kind ever found on Greenland — or under any of the Earth’s ice sheets — and is among the 25 largest known on Earth, said the report in the journal Science Advances.
The impact of the 19-mile (31 kilometers) wide crater under the Hiawatha Glacier would have had significant ripple effects in the region, possible even globally, researchers said.
But its story is just beginning to be told.
“There would have been debris projected into the atmosphere that would affect the climate and the potential for melting a lot of ice, so there could have been a sudden freshwater influx into the Nares Strait between Canada and Greenland that would have affected the ocean flow in that whole region,” said co-author John Paden, courtesy associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Kansas University.
“The evidence indicates that the impact probably happened after the Greenland Ice Sheet formed, but the research team is still working on the precise dating.”
The discovery was initially made in the 2015 but an international team of researchers has been working to verify the findings ever since.
The initial finding was made with data from NASA’s Program for Arctic Regional Climate Assessment and Operation IceBridge.
More data was collected since then, using more advanced radar technology.
“So far, it has not been possible to date the crater directly, but its condition strongly suggests that it formed after ice began to cover Greenland, so younger than three million years old and possibly as recently as 12,000 years ago — toward the end of the last ice age” said co-author professor Kurt Kjaer from the Center for GeoGenetics at the Natural History Museum of Denmark.
Researchers plan to try and recover material that melted from the bottom of the glacier to learn more about its timing and effects on life on Earth at the time.