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WATER WORLD
Climate change effects on ocean plankton said threat to fisheries
by Staff Writers
Warrnambool, Australia (UPI) Oct 18, 2013


Dolphin killings rise in Peru due to Asia shark fin sales
Lima (AFP) Oct 18, 2013 - Peru has dramatically increased its sales of shark fins to Asia, triggering the slaughter of about 15,000 dolphins a year used as bait, officials said Friday.

Shark fin is viewed by many Asians as a delicacy and is often served as a soup at expensive Chinese banquets.

Most of Peru's shark fin exports, which jumped 10 percent in recent years, go to Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and other Asian Nations, the Production Ministry said.

Although shark fin is authorized when regulated, some fishermen are engaging in "criminal activity" by fishing illegally, and must be punished, Fisheries Deputy Minister Paul Phompiu told reporters.

"We are outraged by this situation. Peru condemns the illegal fishing of dolphins and sharks because they are a protected species," he said.

The Mundo Azul protectionist group said this week that 15,000 dolphins are slaughtered each year in Peru and their meat is used as bait to catch sharks.

More than 545 artisanal vessels are equipped to perform this type of fishing along the Peruvian coast, making at least half a dozen excursions a year and killing up to six dolphins each time, it added.

Only 72 shark fishing boats are currently registered with authorities, but there are not official figures on illegal boats.

Phompiu said that stopping the slaughter of dolphins requires going to the root of the problem and controlling the commercialization of shark fins, which is considered an aphrodisiac.

Peru has thus launched a national plan of action aimed at "firmly" punishing shark-related infractions, he added.

Among the measures to be adopted are the temporary restriction of shark fishing and commercialization, seen as the main incentives for overfishing of dolphins.

And in "extreme cases," Peru will issue a ban on fishing dolphins and sharks, Phompiu said.

According to the action plan, the Sea Institute will identify areas where fishing occurs indiscriminately and the characteristics of the fishing fleet, along with breeding areas.

Although mackerel and squid are also used to hunt sharks, fishermen prefer to use dolphin meat, because its strong odor of blood is said to attract sharks.

A species of ocean plankton vital to the food chain is facing extinction with rising sea temperatures and may take fisheries with it, Australian scientists say.

Warming oceans are a risk to Calanoid copepods, a plankton species that is a significant food source for fish larvae and therefore important for all commercial fisheries, they said.

Scientists at Deakin University, with colleagues from Britain, said a cold-water plankton species in the North Atlantic, a critical food source for fish such as cod and hake, is in decline as the oceans warm with climate change.

"There is overwhelming evidence that the oceans are warming and it will be the response of animals and plants to this warming that will shape how the oceans look in future years and the nature of global fisheries," Deakin marine science professor Graeme Hays said.

The researchers analyzed 50 years of data from the North Atlantic on the distribution and abundance of two very common but contrasting species of ocean plankton, Calanus helgolandicus that lives in warmer water and Calanus finmarchicus that lives in cold water.

Both are vital food for fish and underpin many commercial fisheries in the North Atlantic region.

"We know that warm water species are expanding their ranges as warming occurs, and vice versa. What is not known is whether species are able to adapt to new temperatures," Hays said. "Will, for example, cold water species gradually adapt so they can withstand warming seas and not continually contract their ranges?

"From the results of our study, it is looking like the answer is no."

The cold water C. finmarchicus has experienced an ongoing contraction of its range over 50 years of warming, the researchers found.

"In other words, even over 50 generations [each plankton lives for one year or less] there is no evidence of adaptation to the warmer water," Hays said.

The study suggests cold-water plankton will continue to become scarcer as their ranges contract to the poles, and ultimately disappear, the researchers said.

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