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Marine Resources


June 2013 Issue

New Life Found In Norfolk Canyon
During an expedition to Norfolk Canyon, located off the coast of Virginia, scientists uncovered chemosynthetic mussels and gas seeps about 1 mile underwater.

Chemosynthetic organisms produce energy by converting molecules like hydrogen and methane.

The scientists used the Jason ROV to explore the seafloor during the one-month trip. The ROVís cameras showed an expansive field of mussels, which was home to several species of fish and invertebrates. The methane seep that feeds the mussels is one of the only known seeps along the Atlantic coast.

The expedition, which was funded by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, NOAA and the U.S. Geological Survey, was part of a study of the Deepwater Atlantic Canyons. The team of researchers was comprised of scientists from universities, federal agencies and private sector organizations.

The scientists will use the samples collected to determine if methane is an indirect food source for life around the seep.

Gas Hydrate Data Collected In Gulf of Mexico
Scientists have returned from a 15-day research expedition in the northern Gulf of Mexico with high-resolution seismic data and imagery of sediments with high gas-hydrate saturations.

The expedition, along with the data and imagery collected, resulted from long-standing cooperation between the U.S. Department of the Interiorís U.S. Geological Survey and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the U.S. Department of Energy. This collaboration aims to advance scientific understanding of gas hydrates, a potential future energy resource.

Gas hydrates are ice-like substances formed when certain gases combine with water at specific pressures and temperatures. Deposits of gas hydrates are widespread in marine sediments beneath the ocean floor and in sediments within and beneath permafrost areas, where pressure-temperature conditions keep the gas trapped in the hydrate structure. Methane is the gas most often trapped in these deposits, making gas hydrates a potentially significant source for natural gas around the world.

The data were collected at two locations in the Gulf of Mexico.

Wind Parks at Sea Possible Home for Lobsters
Lower Saxony, Germany, is promoting a pilot project on the settlement of European lobster in the Riffgat offshore wind park. Researchers of the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (Bremerhaven, Germany) are rearing 3,000 lobsters, which they will be releasing in 2014. They will investigate whether lobsters successfully settle between the wind turbines.

New structures were created on the bottom of the North Sea with the construction of the wind park. Sand and silt soils dominate the bed in the German Bight, and wind turbines are offering other ecosystems a new settlement area. A rocky bed dweller, the European lobster hides in crevices during the day and becomes active at night. Researchers wish to place lobsters in this newly created habitat.

Lower Saxony is funding the three-year pilot project.

Deepwater Horizon Clean-Up Effort Harmful to Ocean Life
Years after the BP plc (London, England) oil spill, scientists are finding seafood with elevated levels of petroleum hydrocarbon, reported TakePart.

Dispersants, mostly Corexit 9500 and 9527, that were used to clean up the oil evaporated to concentrate cancer-causing toxins.

Despite claims from BP that the chemical is harmless, opponents argue that Corexit makes the oil more easily absorbed by ocean life. Fish from the Gulf were found to have tissue concentrations of 10,000 parts per million of petroleum hydrocarbon. Researchers from Louisiana State University discovered abnormalities in the marine life, including shrimp and crabs without eyes, and, according to a University of South Florida study, the combination of oil and Corexit eliminated much of the population of microscopic organisms that serve as the bottom of the food chain.

Climate Change Affects Atlantic Cod
Atlantic cod retreats in the direction of the Arctic when the waters in its traditional habitat become too warm. In summer, shoals from the Atlantic Ocean are moving up into the waters the Arctic cod calls its own.

In the next two-and-a-half years, biologists from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (Bremerhaven, Germany), together with scientists from Kiel, Bremen, Düsseldorf and Münster, will seek to discover the consequences of this climate-related migration. The research will show how the fish are responding to the warmer, more acidic water and at what stages of life the changes are most dangerous.

At the Swedish research station of Kristineberg, cod eggs are observed as they develop at different water temperatures. Project members will investigate what fish species has the best chance of survival in behavioral experiments and during a four-week expedition.

The researchers know from investigations of tropical fish that offspring have a reduced sense of smell as ocean acidification rises, causing the young fish to find it more difficult to return home and to become more likely to fall prey to others.

Scientist to Study Halibut Fishery
Carrie Pomeroy, a California Sea Grant fisheries specialist, will research the commercial California halibut fishery to collect socioeconomic data.

Pomeroy has a one-year grant sponsored by Collaborative Fisheries Research West.

The study will look at species trends, including where fish are landed and the gear used to catch them, and collaborate with fishermen to determine why the trends occur.

The focus will be on how humans interact with ecology.

The California Sea Grant and California Department of Fish and Wildlife will have the final summary of the report on their websites.


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