Archived News

Plastics Production is Skyrocketing. A New U.N. Treaty Effort Could Cap It.

February 8, 2022 By Michael Birnbaum & Min Joo Kim The Washington Post Negotiators from around the world will start work this month on a treaty to reduce plastic pollution, in what diplomats say is the most ambitious round of climate diplomacy since the 2015 Paris agreement that focuses on global warming.

How the Moon ‘Wobble’ Affects Rising Tides

July 16, 2021 By Jacey Fortin The New York Times Scientists say it’s less like a wobble and more like a slow, predictable cycle. And while the phenomenon will contribute to rising tides caused by climate change, it is just one of many factors.

On an Alaskan Island, a Mayor Fights for Fur Seals – and a New Future

July 12, 2021 By Matthew Green and Nathan Howard Reuters Fifty years ago, Patrick Pletnikoff spent his summers stripping blubber from the carcasses of seals clubbed to death in Alaska’s annual harvest, competing with other young men to show who wielded the fastest blade.Now he’s fighting for a bigger prize: to transform his native St.…

How a Mexican Lagoon Lost Its Colors

July 12, 2021 By Allison Keeley The New Yorker Bacalar is poised to become one of the country’s great tourist destinations—if its ecosystem can survive.

Like in ‘Postapocalyptic Movies’: Heat Wave Killed Marine Wildlife en Masse

July 9, 2021 By Catrin Einhorn The New York Times The combination of extraordinary heat and drought that hit the Western United States and Canada over the past two weeks has killed hundreds of millions of marine animals and continues to threaten untold species in freshwater, according to a preliminary estimate and interviews with scientists.

It’s Cold in the Ocean but It’s Hotter Inside Sea Otters

July 8, 2021 By Veronique Greenwood The New York Times Sea otters run hot. It’s not just a manner of speaking: Scientists have found that the furry mammals’ metabolisms work at a rate three times what might normally be expected from a creature their size, burning swiftly through calories.

As Seagrass Habitats Decline, Florida Manatees are Dying of Starvation

June 21, 2021 By Greg Allen NPR In Florida, wildlife managers and environmental groups are stunned by a record number of manatee deaths. More than 750 manatees have died since the beginning of the year, the most deaths ever recorded in a five month period. Most of the deaths are in Florida’s Indian River Lagoon, where a…

There’s a New Ocean Now—Can You Name All 5?

June 8, 2021 By Sarah Gibbens National Geographic On World Oceans Day, Nat Geo cartographers say the swift current circling Antarctica keeps the waters there distinct and worthy of their own name: the Southern Ocean.

Extraterrestrial Plutonium Atoms Turn Up on Ocean Bottom

May 17, 2021 By William J. Broad The New York Times Scientists studying a sample of oceanic crust retrieved from the Pacific seabed nearly a mile down have discovered traces of a rare isotope of plutonium, the deadly element that has been central to the atomic age.

Plastic World or Plastic-Free World?

May 10, 2021 By Erica Cirino Yes! The plastic crisis is tied not only to ecological destruction, but also drives systemic injustice. With plastic’s fall, will we rise?

The Birds and the Buoys: Using Googly Eyes to Avert Extinction

May 10, 2021 By Annie Roth The New York Times Every day, thousands of hooks and nets meant for fish end up catching seabirds — a global problem that is pushing many seabird species to the brink of extinction. But no fishing gear may do more damage than the gillnet, which entangles and kills at least…

Salmon Have Shrunk So Much That Whole Foods Redid its Guidelines

At OBI Seafoods, a sprawling operation with outposts throughout Alaska, there’s all sorts of extra machinery for workers to master. At Whole Foods Market, there are new guidelines for purchasing salmon from wholesalers. And at Ivar’s, a fixture on Seattle’s waterfront for eight decades, the chef is sending back skimpy salmon delivered to his kitchen.

Fukushima Wastewater Will Be Released Into the Ocean, Japan Says

April 12, 2021 By Jennifer Jett and Ben Dooley The New York Times Japan said on Tuesday that it had decided to gradually release tons of treated wastewater from the ruined Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant into the ocean, describing it as the best option for disposal despite fierce opposition from fishing crews at home and…

The Island Where It Rained Oil

March 24, 2021 By Juliet Eilperin, Darryl Fears and Salwan Georges The Washington Post In the Virgin Islands, a refinery tests Biden’s environmental justice commitment.

One Of Biden’s Biggest Climate Change Challenges? The Oceans.

March 18, 2021 By Lauren Sommer NPR Ocean scientists say the Biden Administration is taking office at a critical time. Sea levels are rising, fish are migrating away from where they’re normally caught, and the water itself is becoming more acidic as it absorbs carbon dioxide that humans emit.

Satellite Imagery Shows Northern California Kelp Forests Have Collapsed

March 11, 2021 By Alex Fox Smithsonian Magazine The coastal waters of Northern California are changing. A decade ago, hundreds of miles of the rugged seaside were flanked by thick, swaying underwater forests of amber-green bull kelp that were home to fish, abalone and a host of other species. Now, those forests have been nearly…

Biden Administration Backs Nation’s Biggest Wind Farm off Martha’s Vineyard

March 8, 2021 By Dino Grandoni and Juliet Eilperin The Washington Post The Biden administration took a crucial step Monday toward approving the nation’s first large-scale offshore wind farm about 12 nautical miles off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., a project that officials say will launch a massive clean-power expansion in the fight against…

A Half-Trillion Corals Live in Just One Ocean. Does That Mean They are Safe?

March 4, 2021 By Elizabeth Pennisi Science Magazine A comprehensive survey of corals has turned up billions of colonies across the Pacific Ocean. The work—based on actual head counts, satellite data, and informed estimates—suggests many species are not in immediate danger of extinction, and the census could help conservationists and policymakers make better decisions about…

Tuna’s Last Stand

March 2, 2021 By Christopher Pollon Hakai Magazine Skipjack are the world’s most abundant tuna. They’re resilient, but can they outswim our demand for this pantry staple?

When Seas Turn Rough, Gleaning Keeps the Fish on the Table for Some Communities

February 24, 2021 By Basten Gokkon Mongabay Communities living close to hard-bottomed shallow shores are more likely to hand-catch marine animals during seasons when other types of fishing often aren’t possible, a new study shows. The findings suggest that worsening sea conditions due to climate change will increase the importance of this type of harvest,…

The Environmental Threat You’ve Never Heard Of

February 10, 2021 By Doug Johnson Hakai Magazine Coastal waters around the world are steadily growing darker. This darkening—a change in the color and clarity of the water—has the potential to cause huge problems for the ocean and its inhabitants.

Can 14 Nations Put Global Ocean Protection Back on Track?

February 9, 2021 By Olive Heffernan China Dialogue Ocean For ocean conservation, 2020 was a year of high hopes dashed. It had been billed as the year when world leaders would end harmful subsidies that drive overfishing, agree a new law to protect marine life beyond national waters, and edge closer to protecting 30% of…

The Whale Bone Squatters

February 4, 2021 By Kelly Fretwell Hakai Magazine After a juvenile male humpback whale washed ashore on a remote beach along Calvert Island, British Columbia—the site of the Hakai Institute’s Calvert Island Ecological Observatory—in May 2019, the first order of business for scientists was to conduct a necropsy.

Is It Too Late for the Southern Resident Orcas?

February 3, 2021 By Catherine Denardo Outside Magazine Researcher Ken Balcomb has spent more than half his life studying the iconic killer whales of Washington’s San Juan Islands and raising awareness about their struggle for survival. Now he may have run out of time.

After Hurricane’s Devastation, a Dilemma in Nicaragua: Rebuild or Relocate?

February 3, 2021 By Brent McDonald and Alfonso Flores Bermúdez The New York Times When the leaders of an Indigenous Miskito village returned to their homes days after Hurricane Iota struck last November, they found their lush community in Nicaragua’s northeast laid to ruin — and the coastline itself transformed.

They Want to Start Paying Mother Nature for All Her Hard Work

February 2, 2021 By Catrin Einhorn New York Times The global system is built on buying and selling, but often, no one pays for the most basic goods and services that sustain life — water to drink, soil to grow food, clean air to breathe, rain forests that regulate the climate.

Small Particles, Big Problems?

February 1, 2021 By Rona Kobell Chesapeake Quarterly Scientists Grapple with Many Unknowns about Microplastics and Their Impact on the Chesapeake Bay

Sea lions are Dying From a Mysterious Cancer. The Culprits? Herpes and DDT

January 31, 2021 By Rosanna Xia Los Angeles Times Now, after two decades of study, an all-star team of marine mammal pathologists, virology experts, chemists and geneticists say they’ve connected two surprising culprits: herpes and toxic chemicals, like DDT and PCBs, that poisoned the California coast decades ago.

Boat Strikes in Maldives Put Pressure on Whale Sharks’ Survival Odds

January 29, 2021 By Elizabeth Claire Alberts Mongabay Known as “gentle giants,” whale sharks are the sweethearts of the ecotourism industry. They spend large parts of their day drifting beneath the surface, feeding on plankton and shrimp with their massive water-filtering gills, which makes the species easy to spot from boats. It also makes them…

Southern Ocean Waters are Warming Faster Than Thought, Threatening Antarctic Ice

January 21, 2021 By Andrew Freedman The Washington Post The Southern Ocean is one of the most important yet least explored and understood regions of the planet when it comes to determining how global warming may affect the future of humanity, thanks to its capacity to absorb huge quantities of heat and carbon dioxide, and…

Biden Selects NOAA Political Team as Decision on Next Agency Head Looms

January 21, 2021 By Jason Samenow and Andrew Freedman The Washington Post The Biden administration appointed a new political team to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on Thursday, where they will help guide policies on the oceans and atmosphere. The staff members have a heavy focus on oceans policy, though the agency is…

Northwest’s Salmon Population May Be Running Out of Time

January 20, 2021 By Marie Fazio The New York Times A Washington State report put it bluntly: Because of the devastating effects of climate change and deteriorating habitats, several species of salmon in the Pacific Northwest are “on the brink of extinction.”

How Whales Help Cool the Earth

Seeing a whale stranded on a beach often provokes a strong reaction. It can make people curious – beached whales can do strange things, like explode. It can also be upsetting to witness a creature so magnificent in water reduced to lifeless blubber on land. What rarely registers, however, is the lost opportunity for carbon…

US Fisheries Hit Hard by COVID-19

January 13, 2021 By Brian Owens Hakai Magazine The COVID-19 pandemic that has gripped the world for much of the past year has disrupted many industries, and fisheries are no exception. An early analysis estimates that in the United States, the pandemic has caused fresh seafood catches to decline by 40 percent relative to 2019,…

Someone Etched ‘Trump’ on a Florida Manatee

January 11, 2021 By Johnny Diaz The New York Times The sighting in Florida this week of a manatee with “Trump” etched in block letters on its back has prompted an investigation and a plea for help from a nonprofit conservation group.

Diving Deep with Plankton from the Comfort of the Lab

January 8, 2021 By Harini Barath Hakai Magazine Scientists at California’s Stanford University have fashioned an elegant device that allows them to watch microscopic plankton traverse the ocean’s depths—no wetsuits needed!

Inside the C.I.A., She Became a Spy for Planet Earth

January 5, 2021 By William J. Broad The New York Times Linda Zall played a starring role in American science that led to decades of major advances. But she never described her breakthroughs on television, or had books written about her, or received high scientific honors. One database of scientific publications lists her contributions as…

Salty Seas Make Lightning Brighter

January 4, 2021 By Nicola Jones Hakai Magazine When marine scientist Mustafa Asfur made a tiny storm in a box, he stumbled on a possible solution to a long-standing mystery: why bolts of lightning are brighter over the ocean than they are over land.

The Problem With Problem Sharks

January 1, 2021 By Jason Nark The New York Times The war on sharks has been waged with shock and aweat times. When a shark bit or killed a swimmer, people within the past century might take out hundreds of the marine predators to quell the panic, like executing everyone in a police lineup in…

Octopuses Are Eight-Armed Taskmasters

December 30, 2020 By Cameron Duke Hakai Magazine According to Eduardo Sampaio, a doctoral candidate at the University of Lisbon in Portugal and lead author on a new study documenting the behavior, there are a number of reasons an octopus might throw hands, from keeping its hunting partners in line to ejecting a parasitic group…

A New Population of Blue Whales Was Discovered Hiding in the Indian Ocean

December 23, 2020 By Katherine J. Wu The New York Times Weighing up to 380,000 pounds and stretching some 100 feet long, the blue whale — the largest creature to have ever lived on Earth — might at first seem difficult for human eyes and ears to miss. But a previously unknown population of the…

Dead in the Water

December 21, 2020 By Victoria Petersen Hakai Magazine As abandoned and derelict boats multiply from Alaska to California, officials scramble for solutions.

Shift to a Not-So-Frozen North Is Well Underway, Scientists Warn

December 8, 2020 By Henry Fountain The New York Times The Arctic continued its unwavering shift toward a new climate in 2020, as the effects of near-record warming surged across the region, shrinking ice and snow cover and fueling extreme wildfires, scientists said Tuesday in an annual assessment of the region.

On the Trail of the Giant Squid

December 7, 2020 By Greg Noone Hakai Magazine Advances in genetic research are creating new ways to hunt for this most mysterious of creatures.

A Race Against Time to Rescue a Reef From Climate Change

December 5, 2020 By Catrin Einhorn and Christopher Flavelle The New York Times In an unusual experiment, a coral reef in Mexico is now insured against hurricanes. A team of locals known as “the Brigade” rushed to repair the devastated corals, piece by piece.