High levels of toxins mercury and cadmium have been found in all organs of the whales recently beached on Scotland's North Sea coast, including the brain. The research shows that rising mercury levels in the oceans leads to toxic stress in the long-lived marine mammals.
For long periods animals in ancient oceans could live only in shallow surface waters, above vast 'dead zones' inhabited only by anoxic bacteria, writes Richard Pancost. Human activity is now creating immense new dead zones, and global warming could be helping as it reduces vertical mixing of waters. Could this be the beginning of something big?
Long after we go extinct the human presence on Earth will be marked by a geological stratum rich in plastic garbage, according to a new study. Long-lived plastics are already widespread over the ocean floor, and there's a lot more on its way. Forget the 'Anthropocene' - the human era should rightly be called the Plasticene.
As worldwide stocks of plutonium increase, lightly-armed British ships are about to carry an initial 330kg of the nuclear bomb metal for 'safekeeping' in the US, writes Paul Brown. But it's only the tip of a global 'plutonium mountain' of hundreds of tonnes nuclear power's most hazardous waste product.
The global catch of fish and seafood is falling at three times the rate reported by the United Nations and urgently needs to be slowed to avoid a crash, reports Christopher Pala. The finding comes in a new study for Nature which quantifies the huge illegal industrial fish pillaging taking place around the world, together with artisanal catches, which in 2010 added over 50% to UN estimates.
Some of us are fortunate enough to have close relationships with the nature around us, writes John Aitchison. But what about everyone else? We must find ways to make people feel like old friends with wildife near and far, and feel that their wild homes and habitats are extensions of our own. And hence, that they are as deserving of our care as human neighbours - if not more so.
There is a simple formula for restoring life to over-exploited coastal fisheries, write Jane Lubchenco & Steven Gaines, and it has been proven to work from the Philippines and Indonesia to Mexico and Belize: to create local marine reserves for the exclusive use of local fishing communities.
Orcas from Puget Sound and the Strait of Georgia are under threat,in large part due to toxic organic compounds in the marine food chain, writes Sierra Rayne. To give them a fighting chance, the nearby community of Victoria, British Columbia must install advanced sewage treatment - rather than just dump its wastewater largely untreated into the orcas' ocean home.
Rising levels of carbon dioxide don't just cause global warming, writes Jason Hall-Spencer. Another consequence is acidifying oceans - which promises to disrupt marine ecology around the world, killing off oysters and corals, while boosting 'nuisance species' like stinging jellyfish.
Increased atmospheric CO2 is doing much more than warming the Earth, writes Tony Juniper - it's also acidifying oceans, something that is already having major impacts on ocean ecology in the Southern Ocean and the North Atlantic. Likely effects: more CO2 in the atmosphere, more jellyfish.
Fresh or dried wild seaweed may be on sale in a supermarket near you, writes Fiona Bird. But much better than supporting what may be unsustainable harvesting, gather your own at low tide on rocky shores, picking just enough for your needs. Once a poverty food, seaweed is now a sought after ingredient that expresses the 'fifth taste', umami.
The Southern Resident Orcas of Puget Sound have plenty of problems, writes Kathleen Haase. But as the film 'Fragile Waters' makes clear, there's a common thread: us. Whether it's over-fishing Chinook salmon or polluting the ocean with toxic chemicals, we are driving them to extinction - and if we don't soon mend our ways, it will be too late.
Floating wind turbines offer huge falls in the cost of offshore wind power, writes Paul Brown, and could be generating power in UK waters at well under the cost of new nuclear by 2020, provided adequate support.
Antarctic glaciers are famously losing ice around the margins of the continent, writes Maria-José Viñas. But a new study from NASA shows that those losses are offset three times over by ice thickening in central Antarctica, causing sea levels to drop. However the net ice gain may run of steam in coming decades.
Climate change will impact the world in many ways, writes Matthew Blackett. Some of them may be good, like more rain in African drylands and coral atolls adapting to rising seas. But most of them - like coastal flooding, long term drought, earthquakes and stronger tropical storms - will be very challenging. We must increase the resilience of the most vulnerable countries without delay.
Declining tuna stocks are not the only consequence of an out-of-control tuna industry, writes Cat Dorey. A major tuna fishing method used in tropical seas is causing serious damage to coral reefs and attracting a huge 'bycatch' of sharks and other species. Now responsible producers and retailers are taking matters into their own hands - and you can help!
Chile's announcement of a 630,000 sq.km marine protected area around Easter Island is altogether welcome, writes Callum Roberts. It forms part of a trend of very large marine reserve declarations that will play a vital role in preserving endangered fish stocks and vital oceanic biodiversity.
Cornish beaches are awash with millions of 'nurdles', tiny wildlife-choking plastic pellets presumed spilled from an rogue shipping container. As England's plastic bag charge comes into force, it's a sign that there's still a long way to go to rid our seas of the plastic menace.
By keeping marine herbivores in check, predators from sharks to crabs are essential to keep the oceanic 'carbon pump' working - with seaweed and plankton fixing atmospheric carbon and bearing it down to deep waters and sediments before getting munched. It's time to give ocean predators the protection they deserve, for climate's sake.
Radiation can be carried long distances by marine currents, concentrated in sediments, and carried in sea spray 16km or more inland, writes Tim Deere-Jones. So Fukushima poses a hazard to coastal populations and any who eat produce from their farms. So what are the Japanese Government and IAEA doing? Ignoring the problem, and failing to gather data.
Scientists warn that burning up the planet's remaining fossil fuel would cause all Antarctic ice to melt and lead to 58m of sea level rise over 10,000 years, writes Tim Radford. But devastating impacts would strike much sooner, with oceans rising by 3m a century for the next millennium.
Tides in the UK's coastal waters could be generating 10GW of clean power, representing half of Europe's tidal resource, writes Ross Jennings. So far it's going unexploited, but a new generation of lightweight, low cast tidal turbines that float off the surface could soon get that electricity into our homes and businesses.
Worried about debt, defaults and deficits? Save up your concern for the real problem, writes Glen Barry. The systematic destruction Earth's natural ecosystems for short-term profit is the 'bubble' that underlies economic growth - and if allowed to continue its bursting will leave the Earth in a state of social, economic and ecological collapse.
A stones throw from where Cuadrilla lost its bid to develop a fracking operation in Lancashire, a solar farm has just won planning permission with widespread local support, writes Ben Lucas. However a 194-turbine offshore wind farm near the Isle of Wight has been refused planning consent.