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220 posts in Publications

Stretching out supplies of fish food to aquaculture species

Some types of aquaculture-raised (farmed) fish and crustaceans rely on wild-caught fish as feed for omega-3 fatty acids and micronutrients. But with the rapid and continuing rise of aquaculture, and the natural limits to the supply of forage fish (anchovies, herring, and their relatives), eventually this supply of feed will be exhausted. A new study now highlights ways in which the supply of fish food can be eked out further by: (1) reducing the proportion of feed that is based on wild-caught fish and switching to crop-based diets such as soy; (2) increasing catches of forage fish to maximum sustainable levels, adding 30% more catch compared to 2012 levels; (3) eliminating the addition of wild-caught feed to non-carnivorous farmed species; (4) eliminating forage fish from pig and poultry diets; (5) using trimmings from the processing of other wild-caught species as food for farmed fish; and (6) increasing the efficiency of farmed fish production. 

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Substantial decline in polar bear range with sea ice loss

Polar bears rely heavily on sea ice to search for prey, and in Baffin Bay between Canada and Greenland, such ice-associated searching halts during ice-free months. However, since 1979, higher temperatures have resulted in the ice-free season in this region increasing by 12 days per decade in this region. Now, satellite-tags placed on 81 polar bears in Baffin Bay reveal that polar bears greatly reduced the area in which they forage between 1991-95 and 2009-15, by as much as 70% in summer. 

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Eating oysters and sardines is better for the environment than most land-based food

A new study examines the overall environmental effects of eating different kinds of foods, comparing the energy required, greenhouse-gas emissions produced, release of nutrients harming water quality, and compounds causing acidification; and also looking at freshwater demands, and the use of pesticides and antibiotics. The review examined 148 life cycle analysis documents that cover the complete impacts of each food production source from start to finish. 

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Where did the cod come from?

A new genetic analysis of Pacific cod has identified more than 6000 genetic markers, and demonstrates that their DNA diverges steadily with distance, which is termed “isolation by distance”. The results allow researchers to identify where Pacific cod are caught to within 220 km, even if the unknown Pacific cod come from a population that was not included in the original analysis. 

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Vaccine injection is required to protect sablefish from a common disease in aquaculture

Sablefish is a highly valuable wild-caught fish on the west coast of North America that can also be easily cultured in aquaculture facilities. However, when reared at high densities in pens, disease outbreaks can be a problem, especially a bacteria that causes a disease named furunculosis. A new study examines the effectiveness of a vaccine developed by the company AquaTactics, to test whether this vaccine protects against furunculosis when injected into fish, or when the fish are immersed for one minute in a vaccine solution. 

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How many sensors are needed to cover an area?

Many scientific fields require long-term monitoring of regions using sensors that are fixed in place, such as weather stations or acoustic stations that monitor fish abundance. These sensors produce high-quality streams of data in time, but typically over a small proportion of the study area. A long-standing sampling design problem is calculating how many sensors should be deployed to accurately estimate amounts of monitored variables such as rainfall. 

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Deep secrets of even-year and odd-year pink salmon unveiled by genetics

A new analysis of DNA differences between populations of pink salmon in the North Pacific reveals some fascinating insights into how these populations first arose and how they are related. Pink salmon all come back to spawn exactly two years after their parents spawned, which means that pink salmon coming back in even years (2014, 2016, 2018, etc.) are distinct from those coming back in odd years (2013, 2015, 2017, etc.). 

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Fishing reduces the abundance of fish parasites with complex life cycles

Fishing removes parasite species that rely on multiple hosts, according to a comparison of fish parasites on three fished islands and three unfished islands in the central Pacific. The new research also finds that the positive relationship between parasite diversity and fish diversity is eliminated on fished islands. However, it remains an open question whether the impacts of fishing on parasite species increase or decrease disease in host fish. 

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With warming, polar bears spend less time in their maternal dens

In recent years (2009-2015) polar bears in Baffin Bay come on to land about one month earlier than they did in the 1990s, largely owing to early sea ice breakup. This has reduced the duration of maternity denning by approximately 27 days. Maternity dens are now at higher elevations than they were in the 1990s as pregnant bears seek places with deep snow. 

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Faster method of dealing with uncertainty in fisheries assessments

Complex computer models are used to estimate sustainable catches in fisheries, by finding the best values for dozens or hundreds of variables so that the models explain data such as trends in abundance and the number of fish at each age and length. Traditionally, software packages are used for this kind of model fitting, most commonly a package called AD Model Builder (ADMB), but more recently a package called Template Model Builder (TMB). 

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