Plastic in Birds’ Stomachs Reveals Ocean’s Garbage Problem

July 4, 2012 by admin  
Filed under Water Quality

A pair of Northern fulmars in early May at their nest site at Cape Vera, Devon Island, Nunavut. The gull-like birds tend to breed in high-Arctic Canada and on islands in the Bering Sea. CREDIT: Mark Mallory.

Plastic found in the stomachs of dead seabirds suggests the Pacific Ocean off the northwest coast of North America is more polluted than was realized.

The birds, called northern fulmars, feed exclusively at sea. Plastic remains in their stomachs for long periods. Researchers have for several decades examined stomach contents of fulmars, and in new study they tallied the plastic products in dead fulmars that had washed up on the coasts of Washington, Oregon and British Columbia, Canada.

The research revealed a “substantial increase in plastic pollution over the past four decades,” the researchers said in a statement.

“Like the canary in the coal mine, northern fulmars are sentinels of plastic pollution in our oceans,” said Stephanie Avery-Gomm, the study’s lead author and a graduate student in University of British Columbia’s Department of Zoology. “Their stomach content provides a ’snapshot’ sample of plastic pollution from a large area of the northern Pacific Ocean.”

Plastic products deteriorate slowly and several studies in recent years have shown vast amounts plastic and other trash in the Pacific Ocean. The garbage can be harmful to the entire ecosystem, scientists say.

The new study found that more than 90 percent of 67 fulmars had ingested plastics such as twine, Styrofoam and candy wrappers. An average of 36.8 pieces of plastic were found per bird. On average, the fraction of a gram in each bird would equate to a human packing 10 quarters in his stomach, the scientists figure. According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, globally, up to 1 million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals and sea turtles die each year from eating plastic. [Video of plastic-entangled sea lions]

“Despite the close proximity of the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch,’ an area of concentrated plastic pollution in the middle of the North Pacific gyre, plastic pollution has not been considered an issue of concern off our coast,” Avery-Gomm said in a statement. “But we’ve found similar amounts and incident rates of plastic in beached northern fulmars here as those in the North Sea. This indicates it is an issue which warrants further study.”

The findings, announced this week, are detailed online in the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin.

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Article source: http://www.livescience.com/21391-ocean-plastic-pollution.html

Pollution Playing A Major Role In Sea Temperatures

April 4, 2012 by admin  
Filed under Featured, Global Warming

The Atlantic Ocean, especially the North Atlantic, is peculiar: Every few decades, the average temperature of surface water there changes dramatically.

Scientists want to know why that is, especially because these temperature shifts affect the weather. New research suggests that human activity is part of the cause.

Scientists originally thought that maybe some mysterious pattern in deep-ocean currents, such as an invisible hand stirring a giant bathtub, created this temperature see-saw.

And that may be part of it. But there’s a new idea: The cause isn’t in the water; it’s above it — a kind of air pollution called aerosols.

NASA Earth Observations

This NASA map shows the size of aerosol particles in the atmosphere. Green areas indicate larger, more naturally occurring particles like dust. Red areas indicate smaller aerosol particles, which can come from fossil fuels and fires. Yellow areas indicate a mix of large and small particles.

Click to see a high-resolution version of this image

Ben Booth, a climate scientist at Britain’s Met Office Hadley Center, says that aerosols create clouds.

“The more aerosols you have, the more places there are for water vapor to condense,” he says. “And so what aerosols do is they cool.”

They cool the ocean because clouds reflect sunlight back into space before it can hit the ocean.

Aerosols are fine particles like soot or sulfur compounds, mostly from burning fuel. They seed a kind of cloud that’s especially good at reflecting solar radiation back into space. Even on their own, without clouds, these aerosols act like sunblock.

Volcanoes create aerosols, too, but air pollution appears to produce more, and then the aerosols sweep across the Atlantic sky.

Booth has calculated their effect on sea surface temperature swings.

“If you combine the role of volcanic activity and the human emissions of aerosols, we account for 76 percent of the total variation in sea surface temperature in our study,” Booth says. That’s a huge amount.

Booth and his colleagues aren’t the first to propose that aerosols influence sea surface temperatures. But climate scientist Amato Evan at the University of Virginia says they’ve done the most thorough job to date of tracking and confirming those changes.

“If they’re right, human activity has a huge influence on just so many climate processes around the Atlantic Ocean,” he says.

Surface temperatures around the Atlantic influence the amount and timing of rainfall in West Africa and the Amazon in South America, and whether there’s drought there. They affect the number and strength of Atlantic hurricanes and even where hurricanes go.

That’s if, as Evan says, Booth and his team are right.

Booth used computer models to analyze a very complicated process — the interaction of ocean and atmosphere over many decades. The models’ predictions didn’t match all the changes people have actually observed in the Atlantic.

Evan says scientists need more hard evidence to nail down exactly how aerosols affect oceans, but he’s observed a similar process going on in the Indian Ocean.

“The same type of release of pollution aerosols coming from the Indian subcontinent is actually changing the monsoon,” he says, referring to the pattern of rainy and dry weather in the Indian Ocean.

The new research appears in the journal Nature. If it’s confirmed, it could foretell a warmer Atlantic, because the aerosol pollution has apparently cooled the Atlantic some. But new pollution controls are reducing the amount of those aerosols — that’s good for public health, but it also means the ocean loses its sunblock.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/2012/04/04/150005074/pollution-playing-a-major-role-in-sea-temperatures

4 companies fined $1 million for ship pollution

August 9, 2011 by admin  
Filed under Dumping

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A whistleblower’s complaint about a cargo ship dumping waste in the ocean led Thursday to a $1 million fine levied against four companies that own and operate a fleet of vessels that regularly call on New Orleans.

The conglomerate also was banned by U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier from operating in the United States for up to five years.

In April, Stanships Inc. of the Marshall Islands, Stanships Inc. of New York, Standard Shipping Inc. and Calmore Maritime Ltd., pleaded guilty to 32 felony counts of violating ship safety and pollution standards, along with obstruction of justice.

A whistleblower aboard the M/V Americana — part of the conglomerate’s fleet — told the Coast Guard last November that the ship was dumping sludge and oily waste through the use of a pipe to bypass required pollution equipment. Prosecutors said the whistleblower provided cell phone pictures of the device being used at sea.

The ship’s owners also were accused of falsifying a record book to hide the illegal discharges.

An ensuing investigation also resulted in the owners being accused of violating safety standards for trying to conceal the failure of the ship’s generators. According to prosecutors, the ship arrived at the Southwest Pass — a major entry point to the Mississippi River — after losing power for several days at sea. A manager ordered the ship’s captain to falsely tell the Coast Guard that the ship had two operating generators. The master eventually ordered tugboats to guide the ship into port.

According to court records, Stanships Inc. of the Marshall Islands, was a repeat offender, committing new violations after it was fined $700,000 for illegal discharges and falsifying records with another ship on Sept. 29.

On April 27, U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan revoked the company’s probation and banned the company’s ships from further trade in the United States.

Barbier ordered $250,000 of the latest fine to go to projects benefiting fish resources.

Article source: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/4-companies-fined-1-million-apf-1974536903.html?x=0&.v=1

Marine pollution problem for China

June 20, 2011 by admin  
Filed under Dumping

BEIJING, June 20 (UPI) — Explosive economic growth in China’s coastal regions has led to levels of ocean pollution that threaten human and marine life, a government report concluded.

The State Oceanic Administration of China says 18,000 square miles of Chinese coastal oceanic territory is seriously polluted, an increase of 7,000 square miles from last year, Inter Press Service reported Monday.

As expanding coastal centers dispose of a growing amount of industrial and domestic waste at sea, about 56,000 square miles of the country’s coastal waters failed to meet standards for “clear water” in 2009, the SOA reported.

Overall, 14 of the 18 ecological zones monitored by the SOA were found to have unhealthy levels of pollution. SOA’s 2010 China Marine Environment Bulletin reported that 86 percent of China’s estuaries, bays, wetlands, coral reefs and seaweed beds were below what the agency considers “healthy.”

Government officials acknowledge much remains to be done in tackling the problem of ocean pollution.

“Our environmental quality is only improving in certain areas, but overall the environment is still deteriorating,” Vice Minister of Environmental Protection Zhang Lijun said.

Article source: http://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2011/06/20/Marine-pollution-problem-for-China/UPI-42411308614779/?spt=hs&or=tn

Serious Marine Radiation Contamination Found off Fukushima: Greenpeace

May 26, 2011 by admin  
Filed under Toxic Spills, Water Quality

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Tokyo- (PanOrient News) Greenpeace today slammed the Japanese authorities’”continued inadequate response” to the Fukushima nuclear crisis, after new data from its radiation monitoring showed seaweed radiation levels 50 times higher than official limits, raising serious concerns about continued long-term risks to people and the environment from contaminated seawater.

In a statement issued today, Greenpeace said that earlier this month, its radiation monitoring teams on shore, and on board the international environmental organisation’s flagship Rainbow Warrior, collected samples of marine life including fish, shellfish and seaweed outside Japan’s 12-mile territorial waters and along the Fukushima coast. Detailed analysis by accredited laboratories in France (ACRO) and Belgium (SCK CEN) found high levels of radioactive iodine contamination and significantly high levels of radioactive caesium in the samples.

In contrast, Japanese authorities claim that radioactivity is being dispersed or diluted and are undertaking only limited marine radiation monitoring. Path of radioactive water leak at Japan plant unclear, and “radioactivity is quickly diluted in the ocean, and the dump should not affect the safety of seafood in the area,” according to the Japanese government.

“Our data show that significant amounts of contamination continue to spread over great distances from the Fukushima nuclear plant”, said Jan Vande Putte, Greenpeace Radiation Expert. “Despite what the authorities are claiming, radioactive hazards are not decreasing through dilution or dispersion of materials, but the radioactivity is instead accumulating in marine life. The concentration of radioactive iodine we found in seaweed is particularly concerning, as it tells us how far contamination is spreading along the coast, and because several species of seaweed are widely eaten in Japan.

“Japan’s government is mistaken in assuming that an absence of data means there is no problem. This complacency must end now, and instead mount a comprehensive and continuous monitoring program of the marine environment along the Fukushima coast, along with full disclosure of all information about both past and ongoing releases of contaminated water.”

Most fish and shellfish sampled by Greenpeace were found to contain levels of radioactivity above legal limits for food contamination. This is just one of the multiple, chronic sources of radiation exposure to people living in the greater Fukushima area. In April, the authorities raised regulatory limits for levels of radiation exposure twentyfold to 20 milliSievert per year for all people – including children.

Greenpeace has criticised this controversial revision of regulatory standards, saying it only accounts for sources of external exposure - radioactive materials can also be ingested, inhaled or absorbed through the skin. Any increased exposure consequently also increases the risk of developing cancer and other radiation-related illnesses, it said.

“Ongoing contamination from the Fukushima crisis means fishermen could be at additional risk from handling fishing nets that have come in contact with radioactive sediment (6), hemp materials such as rope, which absorb radioactive materials, and as our research shows, radioactivity in fish and seaweed collected along Fukushima’s coast,” said Wakao Hanaoka, Greenpeace Japan Oceans Campaigner. “Fishermen, their communities and consumers desperately need information on how radioactivity affects their lives, livelihoods and the ecosystems they rely on, and especially how they can protect themselves and their families from further contamination.”

For example, eating one kilo of highly contaminated seaweed sampled by Greenpeace could increase the radiation dose by 2.8 milliSievert – almost three times the internationally recommended annual maximum, according to the statement.

“Even if all the leaks caused by the Fukushima nuclear crisis were to stop today, the radiation problem is not going to go away. A long-term, comprehensive monitoring programme must be put in place, decisive action taken to protect the health of fisherman, farmers and consumers, and compensation given to all whose lives have been destroyed by this disaster,” said Hanaoka.

PanOrient News

Article source: http://www.panorientnews.com/en/news.php?k=970