As described in the July 20, 2013, issue of the journal Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, the researchers tapped into a vast, yet nontraditional source of information to formulate their conclusions: An expansive catalog of fish captured and recorded in cooling water systems at five California coastal power plants.
The unique data set is derived from the tens of millions of cubic meters of water filtered at each power plant several times per year. Each fish caught by the cooling systems since 1972 was identified and counted.
The power plant data are another component in the various methods Scripps scientists employ to help science and society understand environmental issues and challenges. Scripps’s longstanding oceanographic observation programs include the California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations (CalCOFI), the longest open-ocean observing program of its kind that has been producing vital data to decipher changes well offshore, as well as a long-standing program of daily seawater measurements off the Scripps Pier. The CalCOFI program has also shown long-term declines in plankton abundance. Such observational sources are part of a foundation for research to better understand the ocean environment and provide benefits to ocean managers, decision makers, and others.
The bulk average of fish from the early power plant recordings (1972-1983) declined by 78 percent compared with more recent years (1990-2010). The findings, according to the scientists, tend to absolve overfishing as the main culprit in the decline of these fishes because both commercial fish species as well as non-commercial fishes suffered similar population drops.
The decline centers on so-called “forage” fishes, small species such as sardines and anchovies that live close to shore and are consumed by larger predatory fish, seabirds, and marine mammals.
“Many of the species represented in this data set are rarely reported on as they are not targeted by either recreational or commercial fisheries, yet their decline was commensurate with better known species such as anchovies and sea basses,” said Miller. “Recent data collected since this analysis was completed do not change the outlook—the relatively long-term decline continues and likely contributes to the current, acute malnutrition and mortalities in California sea lions.”
“The data indicate that there has been a clear-cut and substantial decline in the abundance of these forage fish, both in the number of fish caught and in the overall biomass,” said McGowan, an emeritus research professor of oceanography at Scripps. “Factors beyond fishing such as oceanographic change appear to be involved, including temperature changes from global warming.”
McGowan says the evidence reveals clear synchronous declines across all five regions, possibly connected to ocean temperatures. Ranging from Northern San Diego County to Ventura County, the power plants include the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, Huntington Beach Generating Station, Redondo Beach Generating Station, El Segundo Generating Station, and Ormond Beach Generating Station.
“The data from four of the five power plants agree with one another, so it has to be a large-scale phenomenon, something other than the individual power plants,” McGowan said.
“We have found consistency between the power plant records and data compiled from other independent sources including fishing records and stock assessment models,” said Miller. “This invaluable secondary use of the power plant monitoring program provides population data to help better manage our coastal resources. It is a benefit which we have only begun to utilize.”
Monitoring was executed, in part, in fulfillment of conditions set forth in each power plant’s state-issued discharge permit. This analysis, however, examined these data in ways and to a depth well beyond their respective permit requirements. The results represent a substantial secondary use for regulated monitoring data, once the data have fulfilled their primary, permit-required purpose. Each of the power plant operators agreed to the use of their historic data and supported the monitoring program throughout. All data analyses were supported internally by MBC Applied Environmental Sciences.
Mario Aguilera | Newswise
Foxes in the city: citizen science helps researchers to study urban wildlife
14.12.2018 | Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien
Machine learning helps predict worldwide plant-conservation priorities
04.12.2018 | Ohio State University
Researchers from the University of Basel have reported a new method that allows the physical state of just a few atoms or molecules within a network to be controlled. It is based on the spontaneous self-organization of molecules into extensive networks with pores about one nanometer in size. In the journal ‘small’, the physicists reported on their investigations, which could be of particular importance for the development of new storage devices.
Around the world, researchers are attempting to shrink data storage devices to achieve as large a storage capacity in as small a space as possible. In almost...
The more objects we make "smart," from watches to entire buildings, the greater the need for these devices to store and retrieve massive amounts of data quickly without consuming too much power.
Millions of new memory cells could be part of a computer chip and provide that speed and energy savings, thanks to the discovery of a previously unobserved...
What if, instead of turning up the thermostat, you could warm up with high-tech, flexible patches sewn into your clothes - while significantly reducing your...
A widely used diabetes medication combined with an antihypertensive drug specifically inhibits tumor growth – this was discovered by researchers from the University of Basel’s Biozentrum two years ago. In a follow-up study, recently published in “Cell Reports”, the scientists report that this drug cocktail induces cancer cell death by switching off their energy supply.
The widely used anti-diabetes drug metformin not only reduces blood sugar but also has an anti-cancer effect. However, the metformin dose commonly used in the...
A research team from the University of Zurich has developed a new drone that can retract its propeller arms in flight and make itself small to fit through narrow gaps and holes. This is particularly useful when searching for victims of natural disasters.
Inspecting a damaged building after an earthquake or during a fire is exactly the kind of job that human rescuers would like drones to do for them. A flying...
12.12.2018 | Event News
10.12.2018 | Event News
06.12.2018 | Event News
17.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
17.12.2018 | Architecture and Construction
17.12.2018 | Life Sciences