Rising ocean acid levels are ‘the biggest threat to coral reefs’ acid levels are ‘the biggest threat to coral reefs’
Acid Test for Marine Life
By JOHN BEDDINGTON and JANE LUBCHENCO
Published: June 18, 2012
In Rio de Janeiro this week, environmental leaders from many nations are addressing one of our planet’s most serious yet still vastly under-recognized challenges: ocean acidification.
Ocean acidification, a process in which seawater chemistry changes when the ocean absorbs rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, is profoundly affecting global waters and their ecologically and economically vital marine life. It is literally causing a sea change and threatening the fundamental chemical balance of ocean and coastal waters from pole to pole.
Because the consequences can be destructive to so many species, acidification is dubbed the “osteoporosis of the sea.” To build essential skeletons and shells, many marine plants and animals require calcium carbonate, an important mineral in seawater. But ocean acidification, if it continues unabated, could eventually inhibit the ability of oysters, clams, corals and other marine life to make hard protective shells and skeletons. In polar and other waters, the corrosive effect may also dissolve shells and skeletons already built.
Invisible to most, our fragile, indispensable marine life is increasingly facing the challenge of more corrosive waters as more CO2 is taken up by the ocean. Some creatures may benefit from rising acidity, but scientific evidence suggests that many, including corals, will not.
Corals provide the fundamental structure of our planet’s treasured coral reef ecosystem, and calcium carbonate is indispensable to making their skeletal framework. Increasing acidity means corals must use more energy to build their protective habitat. With too much ocean acidification, reefs will degrade and, ultimately, may disappear.
Coral reef systems provide the prime home for about 25 percent of all fish species. Developing nations with coastal economies and small island states are particularly vulnerable because they rely heavily on protein from the sea. Small island states depend on coral reefs for other basic needs as well as tourism revenues.
Already there are disturbing signs of ocean acidification’s corrosive effects. The Great Barrier Reef, for example, appears to be affected. In part, scientists attribute sluggish coral growth to escalating ocean acidification. In Alaska and New England, where colder waters hold more carbon dioxide, research is underway to examine the anticipated impact on king crab, clams, sea scallops and other economically important fisheries. Off British shores, scientists are testing the vulnerability of cold-water coral reefs that provide important protective habitat for young fish and other marine life. British and American scientists are also exploring impacts in the Arctic.
We have made some advances. In the U.S. Pacific Northwest, oyster hatcheries began experiencing massive failures in 2005, threatening the $111 million West Coast shellfish industry, which supports more than 3,000 jobs. Once it became clear that corrosive water from the deeper ocean was upwelling onto the coastal shelf, water quality monitoring enabled shellfish farmers to know when to turn off inflowing seawater to protect young oysters. While such interventions are possible for laboratory operations, limiting the impact on wild fisheries is a much greater challenge.
With ocean acidification as an emerging global threat, Britain and the United States are joining a community of concerned nations to establish an Ocean Acidification International Coordination Center. The International Atomic Energy Agency will open the new center this summer at its Environmental Laboratories in Monaco.
Recognizing that ocean acidification knows no geographic boundaries, this pioneering center offers a valuable platform through which the international scientific community can come together around a single table.
This effort represents a major step forward, underscoring shared urgency to not just understand what changing ocean chemistry means for lives, livelihoods and communities but to get out ahead and manage the considerable global risks it poses.
John Beddington is chief scientific adviser to Prime Minister David Cameron. Jane Lubchenco is undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere, and administrator, U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Ocean Acidification Is Climate Change’s ‘Equally Evil Twin,’ NOAA Chief Says
AP | Posted: 07/09/2012 12:51 am Updated: 07/12/2012 1:16 pm
SYDNEY (AP) — Oceans’ rising acid levels have emerged as one of the biggest threats to coral reefs, acting as the “osteoporosis of the sea” and threatening everything from food security to tourism to livelihoods, the head of a U.S. scientific agency said Monday.
The speed by which the oceans’ acid levels has risen caught scientists off-guard, with the problem now considered to be climate change’s “equally evil twin,” National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration chief Jane Lubchenco told The Associated Press.
“We’ve got sort of the perfect storm of stressors from multiple places really hammering reefs around the world,” said Lubchenco, who was in Australia to speak at the International Coral Reef Symposium in the northeast city of Cairns, near the Great Barrier Reef. “It’s a very serious situation.”
Oceans absorb excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, increasing sea acidity. Scientists are worried about how that increase will affect sea life, particularly reefs, as higher acid levels make it tough for coral skeletons to form. Lubchenco likened ocean acidification to osteoporosis — a bone-thinning disease — because researchers are concerned it will lead to the deterioration of reefs.
Scientists initially assumed that the carbon dioxide absorbed by the water would be sufficiently diluted as the oceans mixed shallow and deeper waters. But most of the carbon dioxide and the subsequent chemical changes are being concentrated in surface waters, Lubchenco said.
“And those surface waters are changing much more rapidly than initial calculations have suggested,” she said. “It’s yet another reason to be very seriously concerned about the amount of carbon dioxide that is in the atmosphere now and the additional amount we continue to put out.”
Higher acidity levels are especially problematic for creatures such as oysters, because acid slows the growth of their shells. Experiments have shown other animals, such as clown fish, also suffer. In a study that mimicked the level of acidity scientists expect by the end of the century, clown fish began swimming toward predators, instead of away from them, because their sense of smell had been dulled.
“We’re just beginning to uncover many of the ways in which the changing chemistry of oceans affects lots of behaviors,” Lubchenco said. “So salmon not being able to find their natal streams because their sense of smell was impaired, that’s a very real possibility.”
The potential impact of all of this is huge, Lubchenco said. Coral reefs attract critical tourism dollars and protect fragile coastlines from threats such as tsunamis. Seafood is the primary source of protein for many people around the world. Already, some oyster farmers have blamed higher acidity levels for a decrease in stocks.
Some attempts to address the problem are already under way. Instruments that measure changing acid levels in the water have been installed in some areas to warn oyster growers when to stop the flow of ocean water to their hatcheries.
But that is only a short-term solution, Lubchenco said. The most critical element, she said, is reducing carbon emissions.
“The carbon dioxide that we have put in the atmosphere will continue to be absorbed by oceans for decades,” she said. “It is going to be a long time before we can stabilize and turn around the direction of change simply because it’s a big atmosphere and it’s a big ocean.”
A World Without Coral Reefs
By ROGER BRADBURY
Published: July 13, 2012
IT’S past time to tell the truth about the state of the world’s coral reefs, the nurseries of tropical coastal fish stocks. They have become zombie ecosystems, neither dead nor truly alive in any functional sense, and on a trajectory to collapse within a human generation. There will be remnants here and there, but the global coral reef ecosystem — with its storehouse of biodiversity and fisheries supporting millions of the world’s poor — will cease to be.
Overfishing, ocean acidification and pollution are pushing coral reefs into oblivion. Each of those forces alone is fully capable of causing the global collapse of coral reefs; together, they assure it. The scientific evidence for this is compelling and unequivocal, but there seems to be a collective reluctance to accept the logical conclusion — that there is no hope of saving the global coral reef ecosystem.
What we hear instead is an airbrushed view of the crisis — a view endorsed by coral reef scientists, amplified by environmentalists and accepted by governments. Coral reefs, like rain forests, are a symbol of biodiversity. And, like rain forests, they are portrayed as existentially threatened — but salvageable. The message is: “There is yet hope.”
Indeed, this view is echoed in the “consensus statement” of the just-concluded International Coral Reef Symposium, which called “on all governments to ensure the future of coral reefs.” It was signed by more than 2,000 scientists, officials and conservationists.
This is less a conspiracy than a sort of institutional inertia. Governments don’t want to be blamed for disasters on their watch, conservationists apparently value hope over truth, and scientists often don’t see the reefs for the corals.
But by persisting in the false belief that coral reefs have a future, we grossly misallocate the funds needed to cope with the fallout from their collapse. Money isn’t spent to study what to do after the reefs are gone — on what sort of ecosystems will replace coral reefs and what opportunities there will be to nudge these into providing people with food and other useful ecosystem products and services. Nor is money spent to preserve some of the genetic resources of coral reefs by transferring them into systems that are not coral reefs. And money isn’t spent to make the economic structural adjustment that communities and industries that depend on coral reefs urgently need. We have focused too much on the state of the reefs rather than the rate of the processes killing them.
Overfishing, ocean acidification and pollution have two features in common. First, they are accelerating. They are growing broadly in line with global economic growth, so they can double in size every couple of decades. Second, they have extreme inertia — there is no real prospect of changing their trajectories in less than 20 to 50 years. In short, these forces are unstoppable and irreversible. And it is these two features — acceleration and inertia — that have blindsided us.
Overfishing can bring down reefs because fish are one of the key functional groups that hold reefs together. Detailed forensic studies of the global fish catch by Daniel Pauly’s lab at the University of British Columbia confirm that global fishing pressure is still accelerating even as the global fish catch is declining. Overfishing is already damaging reefs worldwide, and it is set to double and double again over the next few decades.
Ocean acidification can also bring down reefs because it affects the corals themselves. Corals can make their calcareous skeletons only within a special range of temperature and acidity of the surrounding seawater. But the oceans are acidifying as they absorb increasing amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Research led by Ove Hoegh-Guldber of the University of Queensland shows that corals will be pushed outside their temperature-acidity envelope in the next 20 to 30 years, absent effective international action on emissions.
We have less of a handle on pollution. We do know that nutrients, particularly nitrogenous ones, are increasing not only in coastal waters but also in the open ocean. This change is accelerating. And we know that coral reefs just can’t survive in nutrient-rich waters. These conditions only encourage the microbes and jellyfish that will replace coral reefs in coastal waters. We can say, though, with somewhat less certainty than for overfishing or ocean acidification that unstoppable pollution will force reefs beyond their survival envelope by midcentury.
This is not a story that gives me any pleasure to tell. But it needs to be told urgently and widely because it will be a disaster for the hundreds of millions of people in poor, tropical countries like Indonesia and the Philippines who depend on coral reefs for food. It will also threaten the tourism industry of rich countries with coral reefs, like the United States, Australia and Japan. Countries like Mexico and Thailand will have both their food security and tourism industries badly damaged. And, almost an afterthought, it will be a tragedy for global conservation as hot spots of biodiversity are destroyed.
What we will be left with is an algal-dominated hard ocean bottom, as the remains of the limestone reefs slowly break up, with lots of microbial life soaking up the sun’s energy by photosynthesis, few fish but lots of jellyfish grazing on the microbes. It will be slimy and look a lot like the ecosystems of the Precambrian era, which ended more than 500 million years ago and well before fish evolved.
Coral reefs will be the first, but certainly not the last, major ecosystem to succumb to the Anthropocene — the new geological epoch now emerging. That is why we need an enormous reallocation of research, government and environmental effort to understand what has happened so we can respond the next time we face a disaster of this magnitude. It will be no bad thing to learn how to do such ecological engineering now.
Roger Bradbury, an ecologist, does research in resource management at Australian National University.
July 24, 2012, 12:07 PM
In Caribbean Reefs, Social Shrimp Disappear
By J. EMMETT DUFFY
A sand bores reef in the Caribbean. Most of the eusocial shrimp, that the scientists wanted to study in the reefs of Carrie Bow Cay, have disappeared.
J. Emmett Duffy, a professor at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science and the College of William and Mary, writes from the coral reefs of Belize, where he is studying sponge-dwelling snapping shrimps.
Sunday, July 8
As the sun breaks the horizon, I sit in a wooden chair at the edge of the backreef, an eye on the weather horizon, gratefully sipping the first strong coffee and gauging what the day has in store. Soothed by the fresh breeze and the muffled thud of the surf on the reef, half-watching a lone frigate bird high overhead and a hermit crab lumbering past my bare foot through a miniature jungle of beach vines and flotsam, it feels like home. It’s my 14th trip to this speck of land at the ocean’s edge, and this has been my morning ritual for years, a rare quiet spot in the tumbling stream of modern life to let the mind unreel and reflect.
We are now fully shifted into Plan B mode. The social shrimps that we came searching for, that have dominated these reefs for at least 20 years, are gone. Scrambling to shift course, we put together a hasty plan to document the change quantitatively. Yesterday morning we began carrying out that plan, collecting 10 bags of coral rubble from the first of six reefs to be sampled and spending the afternoon in the rustic lab, sorting out our quarry. The diving is sublime — idyllic seascapes of coral boulders over brilliant white sand and turtle grass, swaying soft corals and rope sponges, mounds of finger coral in the bright shallows. Fish are plentiful, shoals of grunts and surgeonfish flowing over the reef contours, even a sea turtle foraging over the top of one reef. Back at the lab it’s a laborious process getting under the surface, into the little-known center of biodiversity within the reef structure. But we’re rewarded by a constant stream of small surprises: bizarre undulating flatworms, a rainbow-colored sea slug, a tiny octopus that flashes iridescent color changes like a hallucination. And then there is the abundance of small shrimp.
Today is another marathon. We sample two reefs, taxing work in the choppy weather and strong surge, inhale a hearty lunch prepared by our wonderful cook, Martha, and then switch into lab mode for the long haul of extracting the tiny, elusive shrimp from the sponges and processing them. Our five-member team is now a well-oiled machine, working in assembly-line mode, each with a specific responsibility. This includes identifying shrimp under the microscope, removing subsamples for DNA analyses of genetic relatedness and social structure, measuring and preserving samples of the sponges they came from and carefully documenting all collection data. Even with the efficient division of labor, we’re all seeing double with exhaustion by the time we batten down the lab windows and turn out the light around midnight. This is our routine, from 7:30 a.m. until near midnight for eight days, a point that frequently seems lost when I tell people I’m away for a research trip to the reefs of the Caribbean.
In the morning, I return to my station by the backreef for a few minutes of quiet at daybreak. Strong wind from the southeast, overcast skies and intermittent drizzle. But no lightning so far. We can work. Looking back through my records from more than a decade, I calculate that 75 percent of our shrimp collections in this area consisted of social species — three out of every four specimens we collected. Now there are none, save for a few small colonies of one partly social species. It’s extraordinary. The finding puts into perspective a parallel and also puzzling pattern that we observed in Jamaica. Sampling there in 2008, we found abundant large colonies of social shrimp, but earlier this year colonies were few and much smaller in size. On the Caribbean side of Panama, our colleagues noted a similar disappearance of one of the social species over a few short years.
Synalpheus sanctithomae female
It now seems clear that a regional decline of social shrimp is under way. And it’s part of a larger pattern of change. Below the deceptively sunny surface of the tropical sea, the loss of social shrimp is only the latest signal of a global ocean ecosystem on the brink of profound change. I and my colleagues everywhere have watched with alarm the astonishingly rapid transformation of the world’s coral reefs, the crown jewels of the planet’s encompassing ocean, over little more than a single human generation. When I began graduate school in 1985, the transformation was only just dawning on us. Most of us got into this business because of what can only be called a love affair with the ocean and its life. But we have been drawn into the unwelcome role of witnessing and documenting the death spiral of reefs and struggling to find some hope for keeping them alive.
As Roger Bradbury wrote bluntly in an Op-Ed article in The New York Times a few days ago, that hope is proving to be a phantom. Coral reefs are dying at our own hands. The murder weapons — fossil fuel consumption and food production — are the basic engines of human economic growth. Relentless harvesting of grazing fishes releases algae and seaweeds that overgrow corals. Rising global temperatures, guaranteed for decades to come by the legacy of greenhouse gases we’ve already released, are already killing corals, which typically live near their upper thermal tolerances. The acidification of the ocean by the same greenhouse gas emissions is expected to dissolve the coral skeletons that create reefs in the first place. Once that complex structure erodes, we are left with flat rock pavements covered by scrubby algae, and biodiversity is accordingly reduced to a fraction of what a healthy reef supports.
Why worry about saving reefs? We frequently hear that they protect coastlines, support tourism and fisheries in the developing world and influence the global carbon budget. These are all true enough and important. But we really care about reefs, we fear for them, because they are exquisitely beautiful and magical undersea gardens of Eden, full of almost unimaginable life-forms that wake something essential in us. They show us, more than perhaps any other ecosystem, what the primeval fire of life is capable of, what it has in fact done over incomprehensible time spans, which we are now undoing permanently. My fear is that a more of us are growing up estranged from the benefits of wild nature and, lacking personal experience of their value, will not even know what we are losing, much less work to preserve and nurture it.
The shrimp we study are admittedly only small players in the drama of the reef, but they are bellwethers of the fundamental changes under way all around us. Our hope is that the new research direction that circumstances have forced on us will help provide some answers to what is driving that change and where we’re headed.
Extreme Heat Bleaches Coral, and Threat Is Seen
Coral bleaching, like that seen in the Flower Garden Banks off the Texas-Louisiana border, is an indicator of heat stress.
By JUSTIN GILLIS
Published: September 20, 2010
This year’s extreme heat is putting the world’s coral reefs under such severe stress that scientists fear widespread die-offs, endangering not only the richest ecosystems in the ocean but also fisheries that feed millions of people.
From Thailand to Texas, corals are reacting to the heat stress by bleaching, or shedding their color and going into survival mode. Many have already died, and more are expected to do so in coming months. Computer forecasts of water temperature suggest that corals in the Caribbean may undergo drastic bleaching in the next few weeks.
What is unfolding this year is only the second known global bleaching of coral reefs. Scientists are holding out hope that this year will not be as bad, over all, as 1998, the hottest year in the historical record, when an estimated 16 percent of the world’s shallow-water reefs died. But in some places, including Thailand, the situation is looking worse than in 1998.
Scientists say the trouble with the reefs is linked to climate change. For years they have warned that corals, highly sensitive to excess heat, would serve as an early indicator of the ecological distress on the planet caused by the buildup of greenhouse gases.
“I am significantly depressed by the whole situation,” said Clive Wilkinson, director of the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network, an organization in Australia that is tracking this year’s disaster.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the first eight months of 2010 matched 1998 as the hottest January to August period on record. High ocean temperatures are taxing the organisms most sensitive to them, the shallow-water corals that create some of the world’s most vibrant and colorful seascapes.
Coral reefs occupy a tiny fraction of the ocean, but they harbor perhaps a quarter of all marine species, including a profusion of fish. Often called the rain forests of the sea, they are the foundation not only of important fishing industries but also of tourist economies worth billions.
Drastic die-offs of coral were seen for the first time in 1983 in the eastern Pacific and the Caribbean, during a large-scale weather event known as El Niño. During an El Niño, warm waters normally confined to the western Pacific flow to the east; 2010 is also an El Niño year.
Serious regional bleaching has occurred intermittently since the 1983 disaster. It is clear that natural weather variability plays a role in overheating the reefs, but scientists say it cannot, by itself, explain what has become a recurring phenomenon.
“It is a lot easier for oceans to heat up above the corals’ thresholds for bleaching when climate change is warming the baseline temperatures,” said C. Mark Eakin, who runs a program called Coral Reef Watch for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “If you get an event like El Niño or you just get a hot summer, it’s going to be on top of the warmest temperatures we’ve ever seen.”
Coral reefs are made up of millions of tiny animals, called polyps, that form symbiotic relationships with algae. The polyps essentially act as farmers, supplying the algae with nutrients and a place to live. The algae in turn capture sunlight and carbon dioxide to make sugars that feed the coral polyps.
The captive algae give reefs their brilliant colors. Many reef fish sport fantastical colors and patterns themselves, as though dressing to match their surroundings.
Coral bleaching occurs when high heat and bright sunshine cause the metabolism of the algae to speed out of control, and they start creating toxins. The polyps essentially recoil. “The algae are spat out,” Dr. Wilkinson said.
The corals look white afterward, as though they have been bleached. If temperatures drop, the corals’ few remaining algae can reproduce and help the polyps recover. But corals are vulnerable to disease in their denuded condition, and if the heat stress continues, the corals starve to death.
Even on dead reefs, new coral polyps will often take hold, though the overall ecology of the reef may be permanently altered. The worst case is that a reef dies and never recovers.
In dozens of small island nations and on some coasts of Indonesia and the Philippines, people rely heavily on reef fish for food. When corals die, the fish are not immediately doomed, but if the coral polyps do not recover, the reef can eventually collapse, scientists say, leaving the fishery far less productive.
Research shows that is already happening in parts of the Caribbean, though people there are not as dependent on fishing as those living on Pacific islands.
It will be months before this year’s toll is known for sure. But scientists tracking the fate of corals say they have already seen widespread bleaching in Southeast Asia and the western Pacific, with corals in Thailand, parts of Indonesia and some smaller island nations being hit especially hard earlier this year.
Temperatures have since cooled in the western Pacific, and the immediate crisis has passed there, even as it accelerates in places like the Caribbean, where the waters are still warming. Serious bleaching has been seen recently in the Flower Garden Banks, a marine sanctuary off the Texas-Louisiana border.
In Thailand, “there some signs of recovery in places,” said James True, a biologist at Prince of Songkla University. But in other spots, he said, corals were hit so hard that it was not clear young polyps would be available from nearby areas to repopulate dead reefs.
“The concern we have now is that the bleaching is so widespread that potential source reefs upstream have been affected,” Dr. True said.
Even in a hot year, of course, climate varies considerably from place to place. The water temperatures in the Florida Keys are only slightly above normal this year, and the beloved reefs of that region have so far escaped serious harm.
Parts of the northern Caribbean, including the United States Virgin Islands, saw incipient bleaching this summer, but the tropical storms and hurricanes moving through the Atlantic have cooled the water there and may have saved some corals. Farther south, though, temperatures are still remarkably high, putting many Caribbean reefs at risk.
Summer is only just beginning in the Southern Hemisphere, but water temperatures off Australia are also above normal, and some scientists are worried about the single most impressive reef on earth. The best hope now, Dr. Wilkinson said, is for mild tropical storms that would help to cool Australian waters.
“If we get a poor monsoon season,” he said, “I think we’re in for a serious bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef.”
Large plastic items in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch
Pacific ‘garbage patch’ changing insect mating habits
Study on vast area of rubbish in north Pacific ocean finds it is beginning to impact on ecosystem
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 9 May 2012 07.40 EDT
Seaplex researchers Matt Durham and Miriam Goldstein encounter netting and plastic in the Pacific. Photograph: Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Marine insects in the Pacific Ocean are changing their reproduction habitats in response to environmental changes from the accumulating amount of rubbish in the north Pacific subtropical gyre, also known as the great Pacific garbage patch, according to researchers.
The patch has increased in size 100 times since the 1970s, including its swath of microplastic particles of less than 5mm diameter. The marine insect Halobates sericeus, a species of water skater, is now using the microplastic debris as a surface to lay its eggs, said a study by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at University of California San Diego, published on Wednesday in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters.
“This paper shows a dramatic increase in plastic over a relatively short time period and the effect it’s having on a common North Pacific Gyre invertebrate,” said graduate student and lead author Miriam Goldstein, in a statement released by Scripps. “We’re seeing changes in this marine insect that can be directly attributed to the plastic.”
Goldstein was part of a graduate student team, the Scripps Environmental Accumulation of Plastic Expedition (Seaplex), which travelled to the patch to study its environmental impact in 2009. The study compared the group’s findings to data from the early 1970s.
The Seaplex team found that water skaters typically lay their eggs on floating objects like seashells, bird feathers and pumice, but the change to plastic could have “ecosystem-wide consequences”. The insects are an important link on the marine food chain, plus predators like crabs rely on their eggs as a source of food.
Increased quantities of microplastic could also mean population growth of the water skaters, and more pressure on their prey zooplankton and fish eggs, according to the study.
Debris from the patch has had an impact on other marine life, including ingestion by fish and invertebrates at a rate of roughly 12,000 to 24,000 tonnes per year, according to Scripps. It also transports pollutants and has introduced alien species into new areas.
Why are our fish shrinking? From ocean giants in the Fifties to tiddlers today, these pictures show the astonishing change in one fishing port’s typical catch. The reason? We’re turning our seas into ‘dead zones’
Lunchtime: The stunning image of the massive fish was captured as it was feeding on plankton
Friendly beasts: Being docile by nature, whale sharks often allow divers to come near them and even hitch a ride
Heartbreaking numbers: As many as 73 million sharks are exterminated each year for their fins that go into shark fin soup and other dishes
Financial advantages: It is estimated that whale shark tourism is worth over $47million worldwide per year
These Alaskan humpback whales leaping into the air could well be the happiest in the world
Here, away from the presence of humans, the impressive creatures ‘breach’ on a frequent basis
The beautiful, scaled surface of the humpback whale’s mouth can clearly be made out in this close-up
Wait in line: Turtles queue up for the special cleaning service in the clear blue waters off the coast of Hawaii
The cleaning service can take up to 15 minutes, depending on how much algae there is to be eaten off the turtle’s shell and tough skin