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Damage to threatened Gulf of California habitats can be reversed
Date:2/21/2010

Once described by Jacques Cousteau as the "world's aquarium," the marine ecosystems of the Gulf of California are under threat. Destructive new fishing methods are depleting the sea's habitats, creating areas that are ghosts of their former existences (see Scripps explorations story "Threatened Gulf".

But, as Octavio Aburto-Oropeza of Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego will describe during a presentation at the 2010 American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in San Diego, habitat conservation can revitalize once-depleted marine ecosystems (session: 8:30-10 a.m., Sunday, Feb. 21, Room 6D, San Diego Convention Center).

One recently emerging threat is a highly destructive fishing method called "hookah" diving in which fishermen use crude oxygen piping to walk along the seafloor for long periods. The technique is typically conducted at night when fish are resting, allowing the hookah fishermen to spear or grab large numbers of vulnerable fish and invertebrates.

Aburto-Oropeza's findings on reversing the effects of such threats are part of a series of research studies headed by the newly launched Gulf of California Program based at Scripps Oceanography.

"In these studies, whether reefs or mangroves, we are trying to show that the destruction on the coast and overexploitation in other areas are diminishing the biomass (the amount of organisms in an ecosystem) in several areas," said Aburto-Oropeza. "With lower biomass, the large predators, the keys to a robust marine ecosystem, are missing and that causes disruption down the marine food web."

But there is hope to counteract such damage, says Aburto-Oropeza.

One successful example is Cabo Pulmo, a little-known protected area near the southern tip of the Baja peninsula that is thriving and a living example of the benefits of protec
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Contact: Mario Aguilera
scrippsnews@ucsd.edu
858-534-3624
University of California - San Diego
Source:Eurekalert  

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