New Parasite Discovered to be Infecting Cod in Gulf of Maine

Gulf of Maine

BOSTON – September 1, 2010 A team of scientists led by Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sea Grant (MITSG) College Program today announced the discovery of a new, as-yet unidentified parasite that is infecting cod in the waters of the Gulf of Maine.

The parasite is a species of acanthocephalan, or spiny-headed worm. Heavily infected fish sicken and die, making the parasite a serious threat to cod populations.

The parasite was first discovered by local commercial cod fishermen, who began noticing the easily-seen parasite as soon as the Gulf of Maine multispecies fishery opened in spring 2010. “It would have been hard to miss, “said Jack Spade, commercial fisherman and member of the Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fisherman’s Association (CCCHA). “Those worms are bright yellow.”

MITSG is working with the local fishing community to map the prevalence and severity of infection of the new parasite. Several members of the CCCHA as well as fishermen in Gloucester and other Gulf of Maine ports are providing valuable data to researchers. If left unchecked, the parasite could severely curtail this year’s codfish catch, further damaging an already weakened commercial fishing sector. “We know we have a big role to play here,” said Mr. Spade, “and look forward to working with the researchers to get to the bottom of this.”

MITSC is collaborating with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) parasitologists to identify the species and its native range and life cycle. Although unlikely, it is theoretically possible for humans who eat the infected cod to ingest the parasite and become infected themselves. “We do believe at this point that infection in humans is unlikely,” said EPA spokesperson Sharon McCoy. “The parasite is easily seen and it also lives in the body cavity of the fish, not in the muscle tissue.”

However, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health is looking into whether any sort of restrictions are called for. As with any potentially threat to the food supply, the DPH recommends limiting exposure to possibly infected cod, particularly for young children, those with weakened immune systems and frail elderly.  For the latest updates, check the Massachusetts DPH website. New Hampshire and Maine are not considering any public health actions at this time.

Scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution are also involved in the effort to identify the parasite. Population modelers at the Woods Hole Center for Oceans and Human Health (WHCOHH) are developing projections for how the parasite may affect cod stocks in the near future. To protect consumers, and the livelihoods of fishermen from Maine to Massachusetts, researchers hope to be able to forecast where and when the parasite will next appear. And their work may also lead to answers as to what and why.

Scientists Dennis O’Leary and Zhuchen Le have developed a mathematical model of the parasite’s dynamics —a series of equations that captures the physical and biological factors involved in the movements of the parasite through the cod stocks in the Gulf of Maine.

GoM model 2

O’Leary and Le entered a range of factors into their model: the speeds and directions of ocean currents, water temperature and salinity, winds, surface heat exchanges, tides, river runoff, and the distribution and behavior of the parasite in the water. They also incorporated other computer models that describe waterborne nutrients, solar radiation, and large-scale motions in the North Atlantic Ocean.

“The beauty of a numerical model,” said O’Leary, “is that it can be used to investigate extraordinarily complex systems by posing the problem in terms of a few guiding principles expressed as mathematical equations.”

WHCOHH researchers regularly share their field observations and models with more than 80 coastal resource and fisheries managers in six states as well as federal entities like NOAA, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Food and Drug Administration.

“Managers believe that a regional-scale, seasonal outlook can be useful in preparing for contingencies, ” said Dr. Judith Pederson of MITSG. ” This advanced warning, along with updates closer to and during the cod fishing season, can help state agencies prepare for monitoring and assessing public health risks, and also give fishermen the opportunity to shift the timing of their harvest.”  Area restaurants may also benefit from advance warnings by making contingency plans for seafood supplies.

WHCOHH is funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Institute for Envrionmental Health Sciences. Additional research is provided by the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Maine Department of Marine Resources, New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries.

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Plankton Blooms and Ocean Acidification Media

Plankton blooms, images http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/Phytoplankton/?src=eoa-features

Video on ocean acidification, high school level. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eedBMXudQfE

Job Opportunity: Outreach and Communications Specialist, New England

Outreach & Communications Specialist: Northeastern Regional Association for Coastal Ocean Observing Systems (NERACOOS)

The Northeastern Regional Association for Coastal Ocean Observing Systems (NERACOOS) is a non-profit organization that is one of eleven regional associations comprising the coastal component of the U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing Systems (IOOS). NERACOOS’s mission is (1) to lead the development, implementation, operation, and evaluation of a sustained, regional coastal ocean observing system for the northeast United States and Canadian Maritime provinces, as part of the United States IOOS; (2) to promote the development and dissemination of data and data products that meet the needs of end users; and, (3) to advocate for the regional, national, and global ocean observing system through education and outreach.

Job Description: The Outreach & Communications Specialist will work with the Executive Director and other NERACOOS staff and partners to implement a range of processes and products to improve NERACOOS’ internal and external communications.

Examples of task to be performed include:

• Engage with individuals and groups who use ocean observing system information to define the scope of information required and appropriate framing of its delivery.

• Create a NERACOOS “internal communication strategy” to coordinate and leverage the efforts of NERACOOS partners and to help them engage with target audiences.

• Craft a set of targeted “key messages” and incorporate these into the NERACOOS website design and other outreach products.

• Establish collaborations with other regional experts to leverage common goals and activities to help promote stewardship of the Northeast’s watersheds and coastal waters.

• Produce a short monthly newsletter for distribution via an email contact list.

• Develop one-pagers, web content, newsletter items, and press releases that improve NERACOOS’ visibility to our members, stakeholders, key decision-makers and other interested parties.

• Support the NERACOOS Education and Outreach (E & O) Working Group and work closely with the New England Ocean Sciences Education Collaborative (NEOSEC).

• Prepare and maintain project plans, records and reports.

Position Location: The Outreach & Communications Specialist will be located offsite from the NERACOOS office on the coast at the Seacoast Science Center in Rye, NH.

Required Expertise and Skills: The successful contractor must:

• Be able to work within the framework of a diverse, region-wide organization.

• Be able to work effectively with NERACOOS’ Executive Director, professional staff, and organizational committees to develop a range of informational materials.

• Have successful experience in a relevant, technical discipline that permits understanding of ocean observing system elements and the ability to work across diverse sectors.

• Demonstrate excellent technical writing skills; print layout and graphics skills are a plus.

• Possess excellent speaking, writing, editing, computer, and presentation skills.

• Demonstrate knowledge of regional media outlets and methods for establishing effective working relationships with key media contacts.

• Have a willingness and ability to travel within the NERACOOS region to attend and support stakeholder workshops and organizational meetings.

Qualifications: The successful candidate must have:

• At least a Bachelors degree in a relevant discipline, and/or equivalent professional experience.

• (Preferably) A strong understanding of ocean or coastal issues, science, and policy.

• Ability to work closely with a small, regional staff.

Compensation: Commensurate with experience. It is anticipated that this will be a half-time position with the initial timeframe of one year and may be extended depending on funding availability.

Application Date: By August 15, 2010 or until individual is identified.

To apply: Please submit cover letter addressing skills and qualifications, a formal resume (not exceeding two pages), examples of technical writing, and a list of three professional references (name, title, address, and phone number). Printed or emailed proposals and supporting information are acceptable. Emailed applications must be in PDF file format. FAXED proposals will notbe accepted.

Cassie Durette

Attn: NERACOOS Outreach & Communications Specialist Position

Northeastern Regional Association of Coastal Ocean Observing Systems (NERACOOS)

Seacoast Science Center

570 Ocean Blvd.

Rye, NH 03870, USA.

Prefer email applications to Cassie.Durette@neracoos.org ; put NERACOOS Communication and Outreach Specialist in subject line.

For additional details on Regional Associations (RAs) coastal ocean observing programs see the following web sites:

NOAA IOOS http://ioos.gov/

NERACOOS http://www.neracoos.org

National Federation of Regional Associations (NFRA) http://www.usnfra.org

NEOSEC http://www.neosec.org/

The mission of NERACOOS is to make available information to those who use these waters. We provide weather and ocean data to fishers and commercial shippers determining if conditions are safe for passage and to emergency managers issuing storm warnings. We are also advancing efforts to use these data for water quality monitoring, harmful algal bloom predictions and warnings, and coastal flooding and erosion forecasting systems.

NERACOOS

570 Ocean Boulevard

Rye, NH

http://www.neracoos.org

Marine Wildlife Cruise, Plymouth MA

NECWA humpback

Photo of the humpback whale named Seal in a behavior called lobtailing. Photo courtesy Carol "Krill" Carson, 2009.

Seabird and Whale Tale Excursion, Sunday, September 12, 2010 10 am to 6 pm

Join us for an all day, marine wildlife cruise to support marine education and wildlife conservation. The New England Coastal Wildlife Alliance (NECWA) with assistance from Captain John Whale Watching and Fishing Tours, Mass Audubon South Shore Sanctuaries, Natural History Services, South Shore Bird Club, and Bridgewater State College are hosting the Fall 2010 edition of a fundraising event called Seabird & Whale Tales.  During our excursion offshore, enjoy commentary from our wildlife experts including Wayne Petersen (MA Audubon Society), David Clapp (Natural History Services), Joanne Jarzobski (Captain John Whale Watching and Fishing Tours) and Jim Sweeney (South Shore Bird Club). Travel aboard the “Tails of the Sea”, a 110’ luxury commercial whale watching vessel owned and operated by Captain John Whale Watching and Fishing Tours out of Plymouth, MA. View seabirds, seals, whales, dolphins, basking sharks, ocean sunfish and more. Leave from the Plymouth Town Pier at 10 am and return by 6 pm. Trip activities include a plankton tow and demonstration, chumming for seabirds and a free onboard nature-themed raffle.  Tickets: Pre-Sale $90 and then $100 after August 31, 2010. To learn more about this trip or to download the registration form, go to http://www.necwa.org/trips.html.  Or for more information, call Krill Carson at 508-566-0009. Space is limited so register early. Group rates also available.  All proceeds from our Seabird & Whale Tale excursions go to support the many projects and activities conducted by NECWA, a registered 501(c) 3 non-profit organization.

Photo Caption: Photo of the humpback whale named Seal in a behavior called lobtailing.  Photo courtesy Carol “Krill” Carson, 2009.

Science Talks at WHOI – Woods Hole, MA

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Science Made Public
All talks held at the WHOI Ocean Science Exhibit Center, 15 School Street, Woods Hole
Link: http://www.whoi.edu/page.do?pid=44975
July 13, 2:30 p.m.
*Red Sea Oceanography: A Saudi-U.S. Collaboration*
Amy Bower, Physical Oceanography Department

July 20, 2:30 p.m.
*Chasing Uncertainty in the East China Sea*
Glen Gawarkiewicz, Physical Oceanography Department

July 27, 2:30 p.m.
*It’s All About the Oil*
George Hampson, Oceanographer Emeritus, Biology Department

Long Island Sound Study Announcements

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