San Diego Mayor Limits City’s Use of Single-Use Plastic Water Bottles, Plastic Foam Products

May 18, 2011 by admin  
Filed under Protecting Habitats

San Diego Coastkeeper applauds the action, which stems from the organization’s 2009 proposalSAN DIEGO, CA-May 18, 2011- Today San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders’ office and the Environmental Services Division announced a series of administrative regulations to limit the City’s purchase of single-use plastic water bottles and plastic foam products (often inappropriately referred to as Styrofoam™). San Diego Coastkeeper, the region’s largest environmental organization protecting inland and coastal waters, applauds the mayor’s action, which stems from the organization’s 2009 proposal urging the City Council to take the steps. The new guidelines, announced today to the San Diego City Council Natural Resources and Culture Committee (NRC) and effective on January 1, 2012, will reduce the City’s environmental impacts, potentially save money, reinforce confidence in the city’s municipal water system and set a precedent for other cities in the region.

The item was brought to the Committee after a December 2010 request from former Chair Donna Frye.  Under the strong mayor-strong council form of government, the administrative regulation does not need Council approval.  However, showing support for the ideas within the regulation, the NRC requested that the Mayor’s office report on the implementation of these policies at the November 16 NRC meeting.

“This will show great leadership to the residents of San Diego,” said City Council Member David Alvarez, who chairs NRC. He also noted that the City is the first in San Diego County to take these initial steps.
Specifically but not inclusively, the Mayor’s administrative regulation will:

  • Prohibit the purchase of single-use water bottles and water bottle dispensers with City funds, with the exception of facilities that do not have access to safe tap water to drink
  • Prohibit the purchase of plastic foam food service ware with City funds (referred to as expanded polystyrene, or EPS)
  • Develop standard language for bids that expresses the City’s commitment to eliminating plastic foam in packing materials, using alternative recyclable packing materials when available and/or vendor take back of the packing materials. This includes working with current vendors to reduce plastic foam use.
  • Revise City permit applications; including those for special events, parks and recreation facilities, and water reservoirs and lakes, to prohibit the use of plastic foam food service ware.

“We commend Mayor Sanders for demonstrating environmental leadership and fiscal responsibility with his policy limiting the City’s purchase of single-use plastic water bottles and plastic foam products,” said Alicia Glassco, San Diego Coastkeeper’s education and marine debris manager. “We hope the door will remain open to expand the restriction of plastic foam use beyond City events and that other cities will follow the Mayor’s lead and take similar action.”

The City of San Diego joins 48 California cities that have already committed to reducing plastic foam for environmental reasons and 28 jurisdictions that have limited bottled water purchases to reduce expenses and support public water systems.

“San Francisco canceled its bottled water contracts and saved half a million dollars a year,” said John Stewart, national campaign organizer with Corporate Accountability International. “San Diego will join the ranks of 1,200 cities and five states nationwide that have taken similar steps, saving millions of dollars.”

This step by Mayor Sanders comes on the heels of the statewide Senate Bill 568, which would prohibit the distribution and use of plastic foam containers by food vendors. Currently, the senate floor expects the bill sometime next week. Support organizers identified Senator Juan Vargas as a swing vote on the matter and ask that he take this action as a sign that his constituents are calling for reduced litter and debris.

San Diego Coastkeeper first proposed restricting bottled water and plastic foam at City facilities and events to former City Councilmember Donna Frye in late 2009. Coastkeeper cited beach cleanup data from across the county, which indicates a growing problem of plastic water bottles, plastic bottle caps and pieces of plastic foam littering the environment. In 2010 alone, volunteers removed more than 25,000 pieces of plastic foam, which is lightweight, floats and easily breaks into small pieces making it a challenge for removal from storm drains and the environment.

San Diego Coastkeeper’s website (http://www.sdcoastkeeper.org) hosts more information about beach cleanup data in San Diego County and the harmful effects of marine debris on the environmental, marine mammals and humans.

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San Diego Coastkeeper
Founded in 1995, San Diego Coastkeeper protects the region’s inland and coastal waters for the communities and wildlife that depend on them by blending education, community empowerment and advocacy. Visit them online for more information: http://www.sdcoastkeeper.org.

Signs of the Tide, sponsored by SDG&E Smart Meter and Cook & Schmid, are community events designed to educate, engage and empower participants in issues relating to the health of San Diego’s coastal waters. The meetings rotate locations throughout San Diego. All events are free, open to the community and include light snacks and beverages.

For more information about Signs of the Tide, visit Coastkeeper’s website at www.sdcoastkeeper.org.
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Founded in 1995, San Diego Coastkeeper protects the region’s inland and coastal waters for the communities and wildlife that depend on them by blending education, community empowerment and advocacy. Visit us online at http://www.sdcoastkeeper.org.

Pacific salmon may be dying from leukemia-type virus

April 19, 2011 by admin  
Filed under Global Warming


In Canada’s Fraser River, a mysterious illness has killed millions of Pacific salmon, and scientists have a new hypothesis about why: The wild salmon are suffering from viral infections similar to those linked to some forms of leukemia and lymphoma.

For 60 years before the early 1990s, an average of nearly 8 million wild salmon returned from the Pacific Ocean to the Fraser River each year to spawn.

Now the salmon industry is in a state of collapse, with mortality rates ranging from 40 percent to 95 percent.

The salmon run has been highly variable: The worst year came in 2009, with 1.5 million salmon, followed by the best year in 2010, with 30 million salmon. But the overall trend is downward.

Losses were particularly high in elevated river temperatures; warmer water makes it more difficult to deliver oxygen to the tissues of salmon.

Seven of the last 10 summers have been the hottest on record for the Fraser River. But experts say it’s too soon to pin the blame on global warming.

“Clearly, a warming climate is going to produce some new stresses for Pacific salmon,” said Daniel Schindler, a professor of aquatic and fishery sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle. “Some of those stresses will certainly be expressed through increased susceptibility to disease, including something like this.”

But he added: “The reality is we have very poor understanding of how climate and disease dynamics interact with each other in salmon. We know they’re going to be important, but we can’t say a lot in detail.”

Two years ago, Canada’s prime minister ordered a judicial inquiry - known as the Cohen Commission - to investigate the salmon deaths, with a final report due by June 2012.

Scott Hinch, an investigator at the University of British Columbia’s Pacific salmon ecology and conservation lab and a co-author of a study on the salmon that was published in the journal Science, testified before the panel last month. He told it that the virus could be the biggest factor that’s driving the collapse.

The study raises “a big red flag,” providing scientists with a possible new explanation, said Brian Riddle, the president and chief executive officer of the Pacific Salmon Foundation in Vancouver, British Columbia.

“The critical thing is that for years, people have wondered about the rate of decline and how it can be pretty consistent across most populations in the Fraser,” he said. “This provides a viable reason now. We’re discovering something new. There’s still a lot unknown. We don’t understand the origin of the virus. We don’t understand how it functions.”

He said much more study was needed.

“If this really is a virus and it’s something we don’t understand, then we don’t know how to treat it or control for it,” Riddle said. “So this is something that could linger with us for a long time, and possibly until the animal learns how to deal with it. That will only happen through natural selection-type processes.”

As part of Hinch’s study, salmon were caught, tagged and implanted with radio transmitters and their blood, gill, muscle and fin tissues were biopsied. Scientists then tracked them and discovered that many were stressed and sick before they reached their spawning grounds.

According to the study, ocean-tagged salmon that had the gene signature associated with the viral infection were 13.5 times more likely to die before spawning.

Hinch said the scientists thought that the salmon became infected at sea, before making their runs upriver. He likened it to “dead fish swimming.”

If researchers can confirm the findings that a virus related to leukemia is responsible, “it would be quite novel,” said Hinch.

While there’s no similar research taking place in the United States, Schindler of the University of Washington said there was no reason not to assume that salmon in the nearby Columbia River in Washington state would be suffering, as well.

Glen Spain, the Northwest regional director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, said other issues were at play and that “a cascade of interrelated factors,” not just a virus, could be causing the salmon deaths.

“There are fundamental habitat issues that weaken the salmon when they have too little water in the river or when the water is poor quality, when the population is truncated because of dams and there’s less biological diversity,” he said. “All of those are risk factors for any number of diseases. … It’s sort of like the blind man and the elephant. Everybody thinks that what they’ve got in front of them is the elephant. The reality is that it’s a whole ecosystem.”

He added: “If this is a virus, it’s an endemic virus and it’s been out there for thousands of years. The question is, if it’s attacking fish now, why now?”

Article source: http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/04/17/2171716/pacific-salmon-may-be-dying-from.html

Reducing Ocean Mysteries will be the Legacy of the BP Oil Spill

April 19, 2011 by admin  
Filed under Secrets of the Ocean

Newswise — It has been one year since a massive explosion on board BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig spilled millions of gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The disaster claimed 11 lives and became the largest oil spill in U.S. history. Damage was catastrophic along the Gulf Coast states. Oil and tar balls washed ashore, fouling beaches and estuaries. Marine organisms, seen and unseen below the surface, were sickened and killed in droves.

But on this infamous anniversary, some positive news can still be reported. The oil spill caused BP to provide millions of dollars to fund scientific research to gather basic information and determine the long-term impact of the spill. In doing so, scientists throughout Florida are unlocking the mysteries of the deep. Advancing oceanographic research will ultimately be the positive legacy of the spill among the negative ones.

BP provided a $10 million block grant to the Florida Institute of Oceanography (FIO) to fund researchers across the state to conduct projects that analyze the spill’s impact and address baseline parameters relating to the spill. All told, 27 projects were chosen. These projects ranged from measuring the chemical composition and breakdown of oil hydrocarbons and dispersants, to the behavior of the fish, plankton, and various deepwater invertebrates possibly exposed to oil.

Nova Southeastern University researchers are using BP money to collaborate with their colleagues at Florida International University and Florida Atlantic University to study sponge species near the spill site to examine possible clues about how marine invertebrates and microbes cope with chemical pollutants. Sponges are an ancient ancestor of most living animals, having fossils that are over 500 million years old. Modern molecular genetics methods are being applied to reveal the hidden biology of marine sponges and develop them as potential sentinels (bio-indicators) to detect massive or subtle environmental changes. This study will apply sophisticated DNA sequencing and microbial analyses to better understand these marine organisms’ biology.

A better understanding of marine processes and resilience to events like oil spills will be gained through unbiased scientific research. Other benefits will be developing safer ways to drill and develop natural resources, new protocols to study and protect the biological diversity of marine life living near the top and bottom of the ocean, and a greater realization for what we still do not know about the vast oceans. Moreover, there may be a greater appreciation for the bountiful products, nutrition and employment that the oceans provide society in general. All of these are positive results from the Deepwater Horizon tragedy.

The FIO research projects should be seen as one way to decrease marine mysteries, illuminating the depths of our ignorance by gaining knowledge of dark marine habitats and shy marine organisms that live in our oceans. More research into the planet’s largest natural habitat, the ocean, is needed. Unfortunately, funding limitations and a deep economic recession have adversely affected NOAA’s (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) ability to fund researchers and academic institutions like NSU that conduct oceanographic research.

As tragic as the oil spill was, it did present us more funding opportunities from private enterprise. Private funding can fill in for decreased public support. The BP oil spill caused monumental environmental damage, but indirectly helped advance marine research. The more knowledge we gain about the oceans, the more we can help to protect them for future generations to enjoy.

Jose Lopez, Ph.D., is an associate professor at NSU’s Oceanographic Center, who is using a BP block grant to measure the oil spill’s impact on marine sponge and symbiotic microbial communities.

Article source: http://www.newswise.com/articles/reducing-ocean-mysteries-will-be-legacy-of-the-bp-oil-spill

Warmer oceans taking toll on world’s coral reefs

February 28, 2011 by admin  
Filed under Protecting Habitats


Global warming took a toll on coral reefs in 2010, endangering one of the world’s key ecosystems that benefit people in countless ways.

Coral reefs are habitat for almost 100,000 known marine species, including about 40 percent of all fish species. They feed millions of people, protect coasts by absorbing wave energy, and shelter creatures that could become sources of medicine for treating cancer, HIV/AIDS and other diseases.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellite data show that 2010, the warmest on record, was hard on corals. Warmer than normal temperatures stressed tropical corals, causing them to bleach - expelling the algae that live in their tissue, giving them color and nourishment.

Some 75 percent of the world’s reefs are threatened by climate change, overfishing and pollution, according to a new assessment from the World Resources Institute and other conservation organizations. The number increased dramatically from the group’s last assessment in 1998.

“It will take a Herculean effort to reverse the current trajectory and leave healthy ocean ecosystems to our children and grandchildren,” said Jane Lubchenco, the marine scientist who heads NOAA. “How the world rises to this challenge is a reflection of our commitment to one another and to the natural world that gives us sustenance, wisdom and a reflection of our souls.”

Coral reefs cover less than a tenth of 1 percent of the oceans’ acreage, but that’s still about 100,000 square miles. Scientists who dive to study reefs can’t cover them all, so they’re turning increasingly for help from satellites.

NOAA’s satellite data on ocean heat showed that bleaching is occurring in all regions and becoming more frequent. Extreme bleaching kills corals because they can’t survive without the nourishment the algae provide. Less intense bleaching can weaken corals, reduce their growth and reproductive ability, and make them more vulnerable to disease.

Mark Eakin, a University of Miami-trained oceanographer who coordinates NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch satellite program, said that 2010 was only the second time on record that bleaching occurred globally.

The first global bleaching, from 1997 to 1999, came when an exceedingly strong El Nino - a periodic warming of ocean surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific - was followed by an especially strong version of its opposite counterpart, La Nina. About 15 percent of the world’s corals died then.

“Fast forward to 2010,” Eakin said. This time, El Nino and the La Nina that followed weren’t nearly as strong.

“The problem that we’re seeing is, as the oceans keep warming on a year-to-year basis, it doesn’t take as big or as unusual conditions to result in this sort of event.”

The bleaching from last year in many places was the worst since 1998. In the warmest months, bleaching hit the Pacific, the Indian Ocean, Southeast Asia and the southern Caribbean.

The Florida Keys and the northern part of the Caribbean, where unprecedented bleaching occurred in 2005, were spared last year because tropical storms cooled the waters.

Coral reefs are more diverse in life forms than even rain forests. The most abundant life is in the Coral Triangle, from the Philippines down to Indonesia and across to Papua New Guinea.

“I’ve been diving in some places there where I see more species on any given reef than we have in all of the Caribbean,” Eakin said.

Article source: http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/03/01/2091297/warmer-oceans-taking-toll-on-worlds.html

Dead zones in ocean threaten fish

January 22, 2011 by admin  
Filed under Protecting Habitats

FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. — With the New Year comes new challenges to fish in our world’s oceans and one of the major concerns is the expansion of hypoxic zones. That’s the scientific name but more recreational anglers are becoming aware of them as “dead zones.”

They are areas in the oceans with low or non-existent oxygen levels which, according to a recently released research study by scientists and fish management experts, are increasing in size while decreasing the habitats of billfish and tuna. In scientific circles this phenomena is called “habitat compression.”

Ellen Peel, president of The Billfish Foundation (TBF) said scientists outfitted 79 sailfish and blue marlin in two strategic areas of the Atlantic with pop-off archival satellite tags which monitored their horizontal and vertical movement patterns.

“Billfish favor abundant habitats of oxygen-rich waters closer to the surface while avoiding waters low in oxygen,” Peel said. The study, composed of scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, and TBF, found a massive expanding low oxygen zone in the Atlantic Ocean is encroaching upon the fish forcing them into shallower waters where they are more likely to be caught. The research waters included areas off south Florida and the Caribbean (western North Atlantic); and off the coast of West Africa (the eastern tropical Atlantic).

Hypoxic zones occur naturally in areas of the world’s tropical and equatorial seas because of ongoing weather patterns, oceanographic and biological processes. In the current cycle of climate change and accelerated global warming, hypoxic areas are expanding and shoaling closer to the sea surface, and may continue to expand as sea temperatures rise.

“The zone off West Africa,” said Dr. Eric D. Prince, NOAA Fisheries Service research biologist, “encompasses virtually all the equatorial waters in the Atlantic Ocean, is roughly the size of the continental United States and is growing. With the current cycle of climate change and accelerated global warming we expect the size of this zone to increase, further reducing the available habitat for these fishes.”

Article source: http://www.delmarvanow.com/article/20110122/ESN03/101220329/-1/ESN

Oil platform could put critically endangered whales at risk

January 21, 2011 by admin  
Filed under Protecting Habitats

Oil platform could put critically endangered whales at risk

Sakhalin Energy Investment Company already has two platforms in the area and have previously said that their drilling technology meant that they would not need a third. An official Sakhalin Energy document also acknowledges that having two rather than three platforms “significantly reduces the potential for environmental impact”.

The company plans to conduct a seismic survey which involves shooting loud pulses of noise into the ocean floor later this year to determine where to begin platform construction.

Three seismic surveys conducted around the whale feeding habitat last summer caused severe pressure on the animals as the noise from the surveys can be devastating for species that rely on sound to navigate, communicate and find their food.

Grey whales occur on both sides of the Pacific Ocean. However IUCN classes the critically endangered Western population as separate from the Eastern population, as genetic studies indicate that the two populations probably do not mix.

Only around 130 whales of the critically endangered Western population exist today.

The construction and operation of an additional off-shore platform could have a number of negative effects on the whales, including disrupting feeding behaviours and increasing the chance of fatal ship strikes.

Aleksey Knizhnikov, Oil Gas Environmental Policy Officer for WWF-Russia says on the WWF website: “Just around 30 female western Grey whales of breeding age remain the population is already on the brink of disappearing forever. The loss of even a few breeding females could mean the end for the population.”

During the feeding season the whales must eat enough to maintain themselves for the migration to their breeding grounds. Their primary feeding area, near the proposed platform, is also one of the only places where mother whales can teach their calves to feed on the sea bed.

“We are astonished by the announcement from Sakhalin Energy that it intends to build a third platform,” said Wendy Elliott, Species Programme Manager, WWF-International.

Doug Norlen, Policy Director at Pacific Environment reiterates:”We still do not know how badly the whales were affected by major seismic activity last summer and will not know until the whales return to their feeding grounds again this year and scientists can determine if any are malnourished. It is totally inappropriate for Sakhalin Energy to plan another seismic survey in 2011 before we have the opportunity to examine the health of the animals.”

Article source: http://www.practicalfishkeeping.co.uk/content.php?sid=3561

California’s Marine Life Gets New Protections

January 6, 2011 by admin  
Filed under Protecting Habitats

Californias marine habitats have received a big boost from new regulations which have banned or restricted fishing across a range of about 350 square miles. The new regulations come ten years after the creation of the California Marine Life Protection Act. This law was passed because of the degradation of various marine habitats, to the point where life might not have been sustainable in those habitats. What follows is an interview about the new conservation regulations with Zack Bradford, an ocean policy analyst with the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

The California Fish and Game Commission recently restricted fishing in 49 areas of Californias coastal waters. Why did they do this?

The Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) that have now been designated along the Central Coast, North Central Coast and South Coast regions of California are not a blanket ban on fishing; only some of these MPAs are fully-protected marine reserves where fishing is prohibited. These MPAs are designated depending on the degree of restrictions as either State Marine Reserves (SMRs), which prohibit commercial and recreational fishing; State Marine Conservation Areas (SMCAs), which generally allow some form of commercial or recreational take; State Marine Parks (SMPs), which may allow recreational fishing but generally do not permit commercial fishing; and State Marine Recreational Management Areas (SMRMAs), which may limit or restrict take of marine resources.

The MPAs along Californias coast were created in order to protect Californias living marine resources its fish, shellfish, kelp, and other marine life in perpetuity, not only to allow the recovery of certain fish populations, but to also protect entire ecosystems for future generations of Californians.

What species live in these now protected areas, and why do they need protection?

The number of species living in these protected areas is almost too many to count. But its not the individual species that were the driver for creating these MPAs; these MPAs were designed to protect the entire ecosystem. Thats why these areas restrict take of all marine life, not just certain species. That being said, there are a number of fish species in California, most notably many species of rockfish, that have been depleted over the years, and which will benefit from these protected areas. Setting aside areas where these fish are safe from fishing will allow populations to rebound as they will allow fish to get older and larger, and thus produce more young young which will spread to areas outside the reserves.

What are some of the worst threats to Californias marine life?

The threats facing our ocean today are almost too many to count; they include things like overfishing, coastal development, pollution, habitat damage, and of course climate change. Of these, climate change may prove to be the worst threat to Californias coastal waters and oceans around the world.

How significant is the ban, and how will it be enforced?

For the South Coast Study Region, the Marine Protected Areas cover approximately 8 percent of the regions state waters (not including the MPAs around the Channel Islands with those MPAs the total percentage is 15 percent). About 4.9 percent of state waters in the region are now no-take areas (11.7 percent with the Channel Islands MPAs). Compliance with the restrictions of each MPA will be enforced by the California Department of Fish and Game.

Article source: http://www.care2.com/greenliving/californias-marine-life-gets-new-protections.html

Sustainability of Antarctic toothfish fishery, legitimacy of Marine Stewardship Council Called into Question

January 5, 2011 by admin  
Filed under Protecting Habitats

Sustainability of Antarctic toothfish fishery, legitimacy of Marine Stewardship Council called into question

By Morgan Erickson-Davis and Jeremy Hance, mongabay.com

January 05, 2011


Patagonian toothfish, also called Chilean sea bass. Photo by Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch.

In November of 2010, the Antarctic toothfish fishery was deemed sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council. This certification goes against the advice of many marine scientists who claim that insufficient research has been done to determine the full impact of commercial fishing on this enigmatic species.

Topping out at 300lbs, the Antarctic toothfish is one of the biggest fish in the Southern Ocean. With its ability to produce an antifreeze glycoprotein and a heart that beats just once every six seconds, it is superbly adapted to its Southern Ocean habitat. Unfortunately, it’s also delicious.

Referred to as “white gold” by fishermen, Antarctic toothfish fetches upwards of $35 per pound on the U.S. market where it’s often called “Chilean sea bass”, even though it’s not at all related to sea bass and lives nowhere near Chile. However, even its exorbitant price can’t make up for the costs incurred by fishing vessels when they venture out into the Ross Sea, the habitat of the Antarctic toothfish and one of the few marine safehouses remaining in the world today. Unpredictable sea ice, turbulent waters, and the vast distance from port make the Antarctic toothfishery financially unviable. Yet there is a safety net for the Antarctic toothfish fishery, allowing them to supply “Chilean sea bass” for people wealthy enough to afford it and employ fishermen at “slave wages” in extremely hazardous working conditions - a sustainability certificate from the Marine Stewardship Council which will let the fishery hike up prices.

“Management of this fishery follows precautionary and ecosystem-based principles. Strict harvest control rules, annual stock assessments, mandatory observation of fishing activities and controls on gear to avoid by-catch of seabirds are just some of the practical outcomes of that approach, recognized and rewarded by this certification.” said Chris Ninnes, MSC Deputy Chief Executive, in a November statement congratulating the Antarctic toothfish fishery on its certification.



Antarctic toothfish. Courtesy of NOAA

The certification will allow a harvest of 3000 tons of toothfish per year, with a target reduction of 50 percent of total regional spawning biomass. While MSC maintains that these numbers are obtained through rigorous population analysis, many marine scientists say that they have no real basis.

“We actually know very little about the ecology of Antarctic toothfish, despite MSCs reasoning otherwise.” David Ainley, a marine ecologist who conducts research in the Antarctic, told mongbay.com. “Because of the challenges of conducting science in the ice-choked Ross Sea, we know only vaguely where or when these fish spawn (sometime in winter, and maybe around the sea mounts well north of the Ross Sea), have no idea about natural mortality, a cursory idea of what predators eat them at the early stages, etc. We do know, though, that larger fish are important to sperm whales, killer whales and seals.”

“The lack of insight about what is really going on is the most true for the Antarctic toothfish, which lives in a really harsh area making fishery science difficult at best, and in which all model inputs are educated guesses, i.e. drawn from inputs for fish species elsewhere in other systems. As the head of fishery science for NZs NIWA (John McCoy) recently said in a public speech, fishery science is based on guesses and more and more these days more fish species become fished with fewer and fewer data.”

Ainley explains that the management of many fisheries operate on the belief that removing large fish is good for a population because it encourages the growth of smaller fish, when actually it’s the largest, oldest females that produce the most eggs. This is especially true for long-lived species like the Antarctic toothfish which doesn’t spawn until 16 and can live 50 years. Even agencies which know better may not enforce a policy requiring the release of large fish. In the tuna industry, meat quality significantly increases with size, giving a fish over 100lbs a possibly market value in the many thousands of dollars. Since many captains and crew members work on commission, it would be difficult, perhaps even dangerous, to enforce the release of fish which could make or break a fishing trip.

As Ainley sees it, it’s all about the money.

“The Ross Sea toothfish longline certification cost the industry (paid by the NZ government) $77,000 for the certification.” he says, “The consulting firms that do the certifications live on these fees; there is no way that theyll be turning anyone down and thus lose market share to other consulting firms.”

In addition to its ecological impact, the toothfish industry threatens the lives of many fishermen who brave the huge swells and unpredictable weather of the Southern Ocean.

In December, 22 people were killed when the South Korean trawler Insung No. 1 sank in New Zealand waters while pursuing the Antarctic toothfish. The men were paid very little, $200 to $1030 for up to three months of intense, physical labor aboard the vessel.

The pursuit of the Antarctic toothfish in the Ross Sea can be even more hazardous.

“These are dangerous, ice-covered seas 2500km from nearest port.” says Ainley, ” In the past few years theres been at least one vessel sinking (S Korea), two having to return to port prematurely owing to cracked hulls or other difficulty (NZ), and another that required the US Air Force to airlift, and drop, engine parts for a disabled vessel (UK).”

Many scientists and conservation organizations say that in order to stop unsustainable fishing, consumer habits need to be changed.

“I would recommend that consumers, if they want to make ecologically wise choices, go by the recommendations of Seafood Watch from the Monterey Bay Marine Aquarium. Those people have no financial interests at stake in what they recommend and are keenly interested in protecting the oceans, and the ecofriendly consumers.”

Article source: http://news.mongabay.com/2011/1223-morgan_msc_toothfish_hance.html

Deep-sea coral reefs off Fla. coast a new frontier for marine scientists

January 5, 2011 by admin  
Filed under Protecting Habitats

In the Atlantic Ocean off Florida’s coast, at 1,500 feet and deeper, the water is 45 degrees and pitch-black. Yet life thrives there.

Scientists are just beginning to explore this vast secret of the deep sea: extensive coral reefs and the marine creatures that live there because of them.

A scientific mission last month explored more than 800 square miles of ocean, from Jacksonville to the Keys, confirming the existence of several deep-water reefs and charting new sites. One of the scientists involved in the study of the deep-water coral reefs is John Reed of Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute in Fort Pierce.

Like the corals found in shallow, tropical reefs, deep-sea corals help form habitat for crabs, shrimp, fish and other marine life. Growing from the seafloor, the corals have produced massive cliffs through the centuries as new generations of coral grow atop the old.

Scientists already know that deep-water corals attract commercially important fish, offering protection for the young and places to reproduce for sea bass, snapper, porgy and rock shrimp.

Unlike the easily accessible tropical coral reefs, however, these deeper corals have many unknowns. Scientists suspect massive mounds of the corals are still undiscovered and that the habitats are vital to the overall health of marine life. Exactly what role the reefs play for the survival of fish populations and the benefit of people is unknown.

There are a few tantalizing possibilities, though. Early studies indicate that some species found only on deep-sea coral reefs have possible medical uses. A unique sponge, for example, is being used in cancer-treatment studies.

But first, researchers are still trying to answer basic questions such as: What is down there? And what lives there?

“With every expedition, every time we dive, we find more and more coral,” said Steve Ross, a University of North Carolina-Wilmington professor and the expedition’s chief scientist. “These coral reefs are extremely diverse and abundant and widely distributed.”

Research about the deep reefs off the Southeastern U.S. started in earnest only a decade ago, but the reefs are already federally protected. Officials declared more than 23,000 square miles of ocean off-limits to bottom trawling, a fishing practice that has destroyed similar reef systems off the European coast.

Only one commercial-fishing group, a small outfit that catches golden crab, continues to trap the crustacean among the deep-sea corals, and it works with federal managers to limit the impact on the reefs.

For scientists, just reaching the reefs is a big obstacle because the corals thrive in depths of 1,300 feet to 3,200 feet, well beyond diving range for humans.

This year’s expeditions depended on the Jason II, a 9,000-pound, remotely operated vehicle from the Massachusetts-based Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Equipped with several cameras and robotic arms to collect samples, the Jason II was dispatched to the ocean floor for days at a time, exploring seven key reefs.

Carrying the vehicle, 56 researchers and crew for the 15-day expedition was the Ronald H. Brown, the largest ship of the fleet for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA’s coral-reef-conservation program sponsored the trip, which included researchers from seven academic and scientific organizations.

Ross and Andrew David, a research-fishery biologist with NOAA Fisheries, said the Jason II proved invaluable in helping scientists advance their research into the corals.

“Sonar had suggested there was more coral, and we were able to confirm that,” David said. “There are several ongoing studies trying to age the corals using radioactive-carbon dating, which suggests some of these reefs are 2,000 years old.”

Reed, of Harbor Branch, is continuing some studies of a unique sponge with compounds that have shown promise in fighting pancreatic cancer.

“One might ask the basic question of ‘Who cares what is living in the deep ocean a mile down?’ but there are many reasons why that we are just beginning to understand,” David said.

This year’s research will help federal managers refine the protected area and include some of the new reefs that were discovered, Ross said.

But with many hours of video and other data collected, and with rare samples taken from the reef, Ross said some of the greatest insights are yet to come.

“It may be years before the data can be analyzed and some of the big picture comes out,” Ross said. “But it’s so difficult to study these reefs that every cruise we can take, we learn a lot.”

Article source: http://www.tcpalm.com/news/2011/jan/06/deep-sea-coral-reefs-fla-coast-new-frontier-marine/

“DEEP GREEN: Solutions to Stop Global Warming Now” wins Activist Award

December 22, 2010 by admin  
Filed under Global Warming

I havent seen this film yet, but theLos Angeles Times has called Deep Green a template for getting off fossil fuels and the Oregonian praises the film for offering hope instead of despair. Sounds good.

Heres more on the film, a direct copy of an email I received from Lyla Foggia (looks like exactly what is needed at this moment in time):

In a film filled with light-bulb moments, none seems to burn brighter than the realization that the race to stop global warming is well underway yet the U.S.has barely left the starting gate. Hard as it is to believe, China long regarded as the Darth Vader of global carbon emissionsis spending 600% more annually than the U.S. on green initiatives, even with a GNP only one-third the size.

What gives? Barbara Finamore, Director of the Natural Resource Defense Councils China Program, points out in DEEP GREEN: Solutions to Stop Global Warming Now: China did its own study and discovered that climate change is going to affect all of the areas where they are most vulnerable: their water supply, flooding, droughts, disease, and agriculture.

Explains Deep Green filmmaker Matt Briggs:For too long, China has been used as an excuse for inaction on the climate crisis.It doesnt matter what we do in the United States, because so many Chinese are wasting energy and killing the planet anyway. But our research showed that this was changing, and we decided to go to China to see for ourselves.We caught the beginning of what is now an accelerating greening of China. Europe has led the way on most efforts to stop global warming, so we searched for the best diverse global warming solutions in seven countries.Plus, we found many areas of strength and brilliant solutions in the United States.

Directed by Briggs and photographed by Beijing-based cinematographer Andrew Clark (National Geographic Channel, BBC, and CNN), among others,Deep Greenfeatures compelling examples of breakthrough technology, practical ingenuity andbrilliant ideas, while searching out the best minds and applications leading to the creation of living buildings, electric transportation, sustainable farming, clean energy, and reforestation. Blended with the enthusiasm and passion with which other countries and cultures are embracing the challenge, Deep Green provides an inspiring perspective, along with specific suggestions on what one person can do to lower their carbon footprint and restore the natural world.

Over three years in the making, Deep Green is the culmination of a quest that began in the 1990s for Briggs, when he started noticing the effects of global warming on our national forests.Concerned, he attended scores of conferences, including the first of ten Bioneers in 1999.Prior to shooting a single frame, Briggs also spent four years pouring over the latest research through scientific journals and more than 400 books.Notably, when Deep Green began principal photography in July 2007, many of the solutionssuch as the first solar thermal plants, hybrid electric cars, and living buildings had not advanced beyond the concept stage, or were just being built while we were shooting the movie.The science and the literature caught up.This became a seven year project and the science got stronger and the solutions got better.Now we know that over 75% or most of global warming is man-caused, and we know how to fix it, says Briggs.

Among the widely-respected authorities featured in the film are Lester Brown of the Earth Policy Institute, bestselling author Michael Pollan, Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute, Dr. David Suzuki, former CIA Director James Woolsey, electric transportation guru Edward Kjaer, and Finamore.

From the beginning, Briggs imagined a way of inspiring a new generation of green achievers through the universal appeal of animationso he commissioned 11 world class short films from the award-winning Bent Image Lab in Portland, Oregon.Included are eight humorous vignettes featuring the distinctive line-drawing style ofFrench-born artist Pascal Campion and the free-standing environmental shorts:The Krill is Gone about the devastating impact of CO2 on the worlds oceans, and Trees on how cutting down our forests creates even more CO2.Both feature the voice of SpongeBob legend Tom Kenny, along with a commanding performance by his wife, Jill Talley, as the ditzy krill.

Deep Green, The Krill is Gone, and Trees have been featured in film festivals around the world.Among them, the Artivist Film Festival in Los Angeles and New York selected Deep Green and The Krill is Gone as its 2010 winners of the Best Environmental Preservation Award for Feature Film and Short Subject respectively.Krill was also named the recent winner of the Blue Ocean Film Festival Award for Childrens Programming.

TheLos Angeles Times has called Deep Green a template for getting off fossil fuels.TheOregonian has also praised the film for offering hope instead of despair.ThePortland Tribune noted:Deep Green doesnt have super heroes, flying monsters, 3-D, big stars, love interests or comedy of questionable taste. What it does have is energy, passion, imagination.Among the others, theExaminer.com reported: Deep Green is an eye-opening film that utilizes science, technology, reality and compassion to highlight not only the responsibility each individual has for reducing mankinds carbon footprint on the planet to solve the global warming crisis.Deep Green does a great job of explaining why energy conservation is critical to the survival of living things on the planet

DVDs of Deep Green are available through Amazon.com for $15.99.To purchase multiple copies at discount or a license to exhibit the film publicly, call 503-635-4469 or email matt@deepgreenmovie.com.For more information about the film, visit www.DeepGreenMovie.com.

Article source: http://planetsave.com/2010/12/22/deep-green-solutions-to-stop-global-warming-now-wins-artivist-award-for-environmental-preservation/

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