Environmental News Archive

An almost weekly update of environmental news, particularly marine updates, with occasional splatters of transportation, indigenous, ideas of sustainability and sustainable development from around the world.


US-Asia climate pact unveiled

July 29, 2005 on Straits Times Interactive

US-Asia climate pact unveiled

Six-nation agreement calls on technology, not emission cuts, to fight global warming

By Bhagyashree Garekar

VIENTIANE - A NEW United States-led pact was unveiled here yesterday that calls for the use of technology instead of cutbacks in greenhouse gas emissions to combat global warming.

The agreement was negotiated on the quiet by the US and five Asia-Pacific countries.
The six countries - Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and the US - account for about a half of the world's population, energy needs and emissions of the climate-changing greenhouse gases. Forest-shrouded Laos, with its agrarian economy and hardly any manufacturing activity, provided the backdrop for the group to declare themselves wedded to discovering a technology-centred way to keep the planet clean.

Although the initiative was an American one, it was announced at a news conference that stuck to Asean's customary preference for an alphabetical way of doing things. It was introduced by Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, who described it as a 'new path for global agreements to emerge based on clean technology development and deployment'.

The treaty is not binding and does not have enforcement standards. 'The key here is to maintain the flexibility,' Deputy US Secretary of State Robert Zoellick said.

The US and Australia have refused to be party to the main convention on global warming, the 1997 Kyoto Treaty. They say it is unfair as it does not require cuts in emissions from developing nations such as China and India, which are major pollution offenders.

The new pact, which Beijing and New Delhi have both signed, seemed to overcome that hurdle.
Singapore was among the first to see its potential.

'Singapore welcomes the newly-formed six-nation Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate,' Foreign Minister George Yeo said yesterday.

'Any effective effort to ameliorate the problem of global climate change must involve the United States. We see US leadership in this initiative as a positive development.'

That argument seemed to have won over India too.

'The new pact includes America and that was a vital consideration for us,' India's Vice-Foreign Minister Rao Inderjeet Singh told The Straits Times.

Mr Zoellick and Mr Downwer answered immediate concerns that the new pact would supplant existing international climate agreements like the Kyoto treaty. They said the pact was consistent with a United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Details of the pact will be worked out at a meeting in Adelaide, Australia in November.

Brown bear returns to Switzerland

29 July, 2005, AFP/Animal Planet News

The brown bear has returned to Switzerland more than a century after it was last seen in the country, officials said on Thursday.

Earlier that day, two park rangers in the southeast of the country observed a brown bear wandering through the Ofen Pass near the town of Tschierv in the Swiss Alps, Swiss National Parks said.

After days of reports from local inhabitants, it was the first confirmed sighting of the bear, which is thought to have wandered over from the adjacent Stelvio National Park in neighboring Italy.

Park officials had been expecting the bear for months. Earlier this year, Swiss authorities had set aside land in the southeast of the country to encourage brown bears to enter from northern Italy.

Wolves, lynx and bears were hunted to extinction in Switzerland in the late 19th century. The country's last brown bear was shot by hunters in the Swiss Alps in 1904.

The conservation group WWF, which is based in Geneva, believes that brown bears can reclaim their former range in the Swiss Alps as long as local farmers accept their presence.

The European brown bear, which can weigh up to 200 kilograms (440 pounds), is a protected species throughout the continent.

Bears from Slovenia were reintroduced to Italy's northeastern Trentino region in 1999. The animals are also present in Austria.

In recent years, wolves returned to the southern Swiss Alps after moving north through Italy and France, while the lynx was reintroduced in the country's northern Jura Mountains.

In recent years, the Swiss government has relaxed laws allowing farmers to kill wolves found preying on sheep.

Name: Brown Bear (Ursus arctos)
Primary Classification: Ursida (Bears)
Location: Mainly Canada, Alaska and Russia. Also Europe, Syria, northern India, the continental United States and other countries.
Habitat: A variety of habitats, preferring open areas such as tundra, alpine meadows and coastlines.
Diet: Mainly vegetation, including grasses, roots, moss, bulbs and tubers. Also insects, fungus, small mammals, salmon and carrion.
Size: Averages 5 to 9 ft from head to rump and 200 to 1,700 lbs in weight.
Description: Dense, dark brown fur; small, amber-colored eyes; broad, black nose; small, round ears; shoulder hump; long, curved, nonretractable claws.
Cool Facts: It has some of the largest olfactory membranes in the animal kingdom, allowing it to detect scents from over a mile away. It uses its claws to dig for roots and tubers, excavate small mammals from their burrows, dig depressions in the ground for resting and to mark trees, communicating territorial boundaries and reproductive status.
Conservation Status: Common, but threatened in some parts of its range.
Major Threat(s): Habitat loss and poaching.

More data on bears at Bear Trust and Worldwide Bear Conservation.

NZ tackles its island pest problem

28 July, 2005, BBC

By Kim Griggs

When the pest eradication team from New Zealand's Department of Conservation (DOC) arrived on the sub-Antarctic Campbell Island, they hunted for an iconic New Zealand insect, the weta.

"They had been reported there in the past. One guy spent a year there and saw one," explains Lindsay Wilson, a member of the DOC team. "We went searching for them. We didn't see any."

But after poisoning the introduced Norway rat population, the weta, along with many other island fauna, rebounded.

"When we went down there on the follow-up visit, the first bush we looked under, there were half a dozen of these weta," says Wilson.

New Zealand has developed undoubted expertise in the business of eradicating invasive pest species from islands.

It is a major problem. The recent Millennium Ecosystem Assessment showed that invasive species were responsible for the greatest loss of biodiversity on islands; and second only to habitat loss globally as a major cause of extinctions.

And this week, the UK announced it would be seeking New Zealand's advice on dealing with the mice that were attacking albatross colonies on one of its South Atlantic territories.

New Zealand first managed to eradicate rats from a group of small offshore islands in the early 1960s. Now it is tacking more and bigger islands thanks to two modern technologies: second-generation anti-coagulant bait and the GPS systems that allow bait to be applied with precision from helicopters.

"Prior to that, rodent eradications were typically on small islands and they were done as ground-based," says Alan Saunders, a former long-serving DOC staffer and now University of Auckland conservation ecologist.

These days pilots follow a grid pattern to ensure an island is swathed in bait, with printouts of the paths flown enabling the conservation team to check for any gaps.

The 11,300-hectare (27,900 acre) Campbell Island, the biggest of the more than 100 islands New Zealand has cleared of pests, is one of the most challenging eradications that DOC has so far attempted.

It is surrounded by 200m-high (660ft) cliffs, is battered by wind and rain almost all year round, and has an average temperature of just 6 degrees Celsius (43 degrees F).

The island also had the world's highest density of Norway rats.

But it took the team three weeks one winter - a flying hazard, the albatrosses are fewer there then - to apply all the bait and now, a few years on, the island is once again a haven for fauna such as weta, the New Zealand pipit, the Campbell Island snipe and one of the world's rarest ducks, the Campbell Island teal.

"The DOC have yet to fail in an aerial eradication operation for rodents," says Saunders.

The New Zealand conservationists have also eradicated mice from 12 offshore islands, one as large as 710 hectares (1,750 acres).

Mice don't range as far as rats so the bait needs to cover "every little nook and cranny," says Wilson.

Four North Island brown kiwi have been reintroduced into a small pest-free enclosure

So fine-tuned is the DOC technique that "virtual" islands are now springing up on the country's main islands.

In the middle of New Zealand's North Island, a community group is half way through ringing 3,400 hectares (8400 acres) at the top of a local mountain, Maungatautari, with a 47km (29 miles) predator-proof fence. When the fence is completed, the mammalian pests within will be poisoned.

Already four North Island brown kiwi have been reintroduced into a small pest-free enclosure on the mountain, the first kiwi there in living memory.

Says Saunders: "The bottom line is that you just make sure that every rat has access to bait and if you do, then they'll all be dead."

Australia seeks to breed test-tube sharks

[Bah! Why are these people breeding useless man-eaters!!?? Sharks should all be wiped out! - drama-ironic budak]

28 July, 2005, Reuters

By Michael Perry

SYDNEY (Reuters) - The endangered gray nurse shark is its own worst enemy, its young eat each other in the womb, so Australian scientists have a radical rescue plan to artificially inseminate and breed the ocean predator in test-tubes.

The gray nurse is one of the fiercest-looking but most docile marine creatures, and despite it being declared endangered in 1984 and its habitat protected, it could become extinct along Australia's east coast within 20 years, scientists say.

In a process called intra-uterine cannibalism, gray nurse embryo pups develop a jaw and razor-sharp teeth very early in their development and cannibalise siblings in the womb.

The sharks have two wombs in which a dominant pup will consume its siblings, leaving only two surviving pups every two years when the shark breeds.

"It is not breeding quickly enough. It is being caught out in the wild and it is not recovering from the fishing pressures on the east coast," said Melbourne Aquarium curator Nick Kirby.

Nicknamed the "labrador of the sea" due to its docile nature, gray nurse numbers plunged after being wrongfully blamed for many attacks on swimmers off Sydney beaches and it was brutally hunted until the 1960s.

Their plight has now become critical.

Breeding programs have been used to conserve the endangered cod trout in Australia, the Mexican gray wolf and Californian condor, but scientists here say this will be the first attempt at shark breeding.

Melbourne Aquarium this month artificially inseminated Lonnie, a 2.6 meter (8.5 feet), seven gill shark with the sperm from a male tank mate.

It will take several months to see the first signs of any pregnancy, but if successful the insemination technique could be used on the critically endangered gray nurse.

"We are using our seven gill shark as a surrogate species because they are more common and easier to work with than risking the gray nurse shark," Kirby told Reuters.

A common problem trying to breed sharks in aquariums is their reluctance to mate. No seven gill sharks have been born in captivity in Australia and only eight gray nurse pups have been born in Australian aquariums in the past decade.

To inseminate Lonnie, scientists had to first use ultrasound to determine the female shark was ovulating and then sedate a seven-gill male shark, named Gonzo, and internally massage its guts to stimulate the production of sperm, which was then injected into Lonnie's reproductive tract.

"We expect in two or three months to do an ultrasound to check the embryos and eggs development," said Kirby. "After fertilisation we are talking a year for pups to be born and with seven gills there could be 60 or more pups."


Artificially inseminating gray nurse sharks will not avoid intra-uterine cannibalism, so marine scientists at the New South Wales (NSW) state fisheries department have come up with a radical plan to breed the embryo sharks in individual test tubes.

"Once the embryos have developed to a certain size (10 cm) they actually have a fully functional set of jaws and teeth, then they swim around and cannibalise their siblings," said fisheries marine biologist Nick Otway.

"We have to bypass this cannibalistic phase. Once the animal gets through that stage it fends for itself. It just swims around the womb eating, we just have to feed it," Otway said.

With only one embryo pup surviving in each womb, the female shark then produces unfertilized eggs for it to feed on until it grows to about one meter (three feet) in length and is born. Each pup consumes an estimated 17,000 pea-sized unfertilized eggs.

Scientists plan to harvest embryos from pregnant female gray nurse sharks in the wild, then raise them in specially built artificial uteri in fisheries laboratories.

The A$250,000 (US$189,400) government funded shark test-tube plan has a 10-year timeframe as scientists must first learn how to create an artificial shark uterus and develop artificial uterine fluids and artificial eggs to feed the shark pups.

Once built, the artificial uteri will be tested with embryos from non aggressive sharks so as not to risk gray nurse sharks.

Scientists will then develop the surgical procedures to harvest embryos from female sharks in the wild and insert the embryos into the artificial uteri.    

Grey nurse (Carchatias taurus) numbers are declining worldwide, with populations off South Africa, the U.S. east coast, South America, Japan and New Zealand.


Otway believes current tagging techniques to keep track of gray nurse sharks will be used to help harvest embryos.

Identity tags will tell scientists which female sharks are likely to be pregnant, they will then be caught in a plastic float and ultrasound checked to confirm pregnancy.

If they are pregnant they will be lifted into a tank onboard a ship and flipped onto their backs, which causes tonic immobility, or catalepsy, just as it does in chickens, enabling embryos to be either flushed out or extracted with forceps.

Unlike other sharks which must be constantly moving forward to force oxygen-enriched sea water through their gills, gray nurse sharks can pump the water through gills enabling them to remain stationary. This will help scientists keep them in a fixed position while extracting embryos, and if necessary, to administer a sedative over their gills.

Once inserted into the artificial wombs the embryos will be fed artificial shark eggs until they reach birth size and then released into the wild.

"If we do not do this the animal is going down the gurgler (drain)," said Otway. "This animal will not survive on the east coast of Australia unless we can do this."

- - - - -

More information on grey nurse sharks can be found here and here.

Fish study shows decline in tuna, 'game' fish

[More reason to cut down on seafood... - budak]

 Thu Jul 28, 2005, Reuters.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Tuna, swordfish and other species favored by fishing fleets gather in "hotspots" across the world's oceans -- but these are in serious decline, according to a survey published on Thursday.

The hotspots -- off the east coasts of the United States, Australia, and Sri Lanka; south of Hawaii; and in the southeastern Pacific -- seem to be linked to a type of zooplankton, the researchers found to their surprise.

Writing in the journal Science, they said overfishing had clearly caused the biggest declines in both numbers and diversity, although climate change also apparently played a role.

Boris Worm of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and colleagues studied data from Japanese fishing fleets. "It is like solving a giant puzzle and seeing the night sky in constellations for the first time -- even as the stars are blinking out. It's beautiful and tragic at the same time," Worm said in a statement.

The researchers studied data going back 50 years from Japanese longline fisheries, as well as data from the United States and Australia. Longlines are the most widely used fishing gear in the open ocean, with baited lines up to 60 miles long that target tuna or billfish but catch many other species too.

Not only are the numbers of fish shrinking, but the variety of species is as well, they found.

"Diversity declined between 10 percent and 50 percent in all oceans, a trend that coincided with increased fishing pressure, superimposed on strong El Nino Southern Oscillation- driven variability across the Pacific," they wrote. "Everywhere you go, in every ocean basin, our "hotspots" today are only relics of what was once there," Worm said in a statement.

"It really hurts to see this."

The loss of diversity means that where 10 different species might be found in an area, now just five can be caught. The more diverse an ecosystem, in general, the more it thrives, researchers have found.

"It's not yet extinction -- it's local fishing-out of species," added Ransom Myers, also of Dalhousie University. "Where you once had a range of a species in dense numbers, now you might catch one or two of a certain species."

The fish gather in the same spots as a type of zooplankton called foraminifera -- single-celled animals that float in the seas and are eaten by a range of animals.

"Our paper suggests there is a solution -- while some hotspots have already disappeared, there are still some very special places where species concentrate," Worm said.

"We have the chance and the political measures to protect some of these areas. To me, it's the most important thing in the world right now -- to keep as many pieces of the puzzle as we can before we destroy it."


Giant Squid May Be Cannibals

By Robyn Grace
The Australian, July 28, 2005

GIANT squid may have more on their menu than ill-fated sailors.

Australian researchers have discovered that the mysterious creatures – enshrined in myth as ferocious beasts that attack hapless mariners – may indulge in cannibalism.

The University of Tasmania team used a novel DNA-based approach to test the stomach contents of a 190kg male specimen caught by fishermen off Tasmania's west coast in 1999. Three tentacles and 12 squid beak fragments were found in the stomach of the giant squid.

While the beaks could not be identified, DNA from stomach juices and tentacle fragments all belonged to the giant squid, or Architeuthis dux. The only other species identified was a fish, the blue grenadier, not previously recorded as Architeuthis prey.

The giant squid is the world's largest invertebrate, believed to grow up to 18m in length and weighing up to 900kg. They have eight arms as thick as fire hoses and large and complex brains. But because none have ever been caught alive, mystery still surrounds the species.

They are believed to live at depths of anything between 200m and 700m, and specimens have been found stranded all over the globe.

Identifying the prey of giant squid has also been difficult, due to the scarcity of samples and their tendency to finely macerate their food. To eat, they shoot out two longer tentacles like a bungee cord before drawing their prey into the mouth, where a parrot-like beak chops the meat into small chunks.

PhD student and research leader Bruce Deagle said the DNA results provided a framework for future studies, particularly diet data collection from the giant squid and other rare species such as beaked whales.

Australian Antarctic Division research scientist Simon Jarmon said while the study could not rule out accidental self-ingestion, the Tasmanian research was probably the first time giant squid cannibalism had been demonstrated "reasonably conclusively".

"People for a long time thought that DNA in dietary samples would be too degraded because of all the digestive processes," he said.

Dr Jarmon said scientists would use the DNA technique on marine animals including whales and penguins, but future research of the giant squid was dependent on getting more samples.

"They're such mysterious creatures. You can't really tell anything about them because no one has ever seen one alive, you've got no idea how many there are or what they might be feeding on," he said.

The giant squid's only known enemy is the sperm whale. Whales have been found with squid in their stomachs, and battle scars believed caused by its suckers.

States Aim to Attract Ecotourists

July 19, 2005 — By Tara Tuckwiller, The Charleston Gazette

When customers arrive at Natural Seasons Bed and Breakfast, they're often just looking for a convenient place to stay in Weston. Period.

They might not be expecting the organic garden. Or the $5 discount for arriving in a carpool or a fuel-efficient car. They might not notice that the fluffy guest towels, when they aren't so fluffy anymore, get reused as cleaning rags -- and when the towels' natural fibers break down enough, they join the compost pile.

Natural Seasons is part of West Virginia's growing ecotourism industry.

"There are shades of 'green' in the tourism industry," said John Williams, owner of Natural Seasons and president of the state ecotourism association. "I focus on the darkest green I can achieve."

Ecotourism's popularity is exploding, with 20 percent to 30 percent growth per year, according to several estimates -- much faster than regular tourism. True ecotourism not only protects the environment, but also benefits the local culture and economy.

More and more tourists are demanding such an experience. Almost three-fourths of the United States' most well-heeled, frequent travelers -- more than 55 million Americans -- favor such responsible tourism, according to a 2003 survey by National Geographic Traveler and the Travel Industry Association of America. Their group clout translates into roughly half of all travel spending.

But those travelers have a hard time finding what they're looking for. Ecotourism is well developed in exotic locales such as Costa Rica and the Galapagos Islands. But it is still in its infancy in the United States. Until very recently, travelers who wanted socially and environmentally responsible nature vacations had to do a lot of blind digging to unearth the small, scattered U.S. outfitters and lodgings that fit the bill.

Kentucky, Maine, Vermont, Oregon, Hawaii and other states are working on a more customer-friendly approach, as is West Virginia.

This year, West Virginia's ecotourism association has hired an "ecotours coordinator," who fields calls from interested tourists and helps them assemble a custom vacation.

Now, ecotourism outfitters in nearby cities such as Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C., who traditionally have sent customers on ecotours in foreign countries, are beginning to steer clients toward West Virginia instead.

"A large majority of our market -- D.C. metro-area folks -- are looking for this kind of tourism," said Ben Isenberg, vice president and chief operating officer of Solimar Marketing. Historically, the D.C.-based company has specialized in responsible ecotours to Costa Rica.

Often, though, the client's budget "is for a weekend getaway," Isenberg said. "They don't really have the funds to do a one-time, once-a-year trip to Costa Rica.

"We've definitely decided West Virginia is a perfect opportunity."

At first glance, it seems as if most West Virginia tourism would be ecotourism. Whitewater rafting, in and of itself, doesn't hurt the environment. Neither does hiking, biking, rock climbing ...

But today's ecotourists want to know more. For example, will the picnic soda cans discarded by a rafting group be recycled?

And then there's the human dimension: Is a hotel owned and staffed by local people, or will the money spent there wind up in a faraway corporate headquarters?

Before 2001, there was no central ecotourism group in West Virginia to answer such questions and attract those tourists. John Williams of Natural Seasons joined with others who already were practicing ecotourism in the Mountain State to form the ecotourism association.

"We follow what are called the 'Eight Principles of Ecotourism,'" Williams said. "We have Poll ID members does not exist. survey their facilities: What are you doing to conserve energy, water, flora and fauna around your facility?"

The "Eight Principles" are fairly strict, agreed upon by The International Ecotourism Society and others. Environmental friendliness is just one part; the principles also demand that a tourism business benefit the local society, while helping tourists understand and appreciate that society.

Big hotel corporations have adopted some eco-friendly ideas, attracting customers and saving money. The Boston Park Plaza famously raked in more than $1 million in new bookings shortly after it announced in the early 1990s that it had installed energy-efficient windows, dimmers on the chandeliers, low-flow showerheads, and wall dispensers for luxury shampoos.

Ecotourism groups applaud such environmental efforts, but caution that the local community must be kept in mind.

A "Green Living" book published this summer by "E, the Environmental Magazine" puts it this way: "A beachfront hotel tower built of imported materials with absentee owners and no local employees is not an eco-resort, even if it does offer its guests the option of not washing their towels."

There exists no "seal of approval" to tell a traveler for sure if a company truly practices good ecotourism. So tourists often rely on companies such as Solimar to book them environmentally and socially responsible vacations.

Isenberg, of Solimar, believes West Virginia has what it takes to attract ecotourists.

"A lot of the same people coming to our office, looking for an international escape, would love the opportunity to do some ecotourism close by," he said. The state offers many of the same ecotourism activities as Costa Rica: "Whitewater rafting, birding, camping, ecolodges," Isenberg said. "And the culture and history is pretty rich in both places."

Popular belief, and early research, held that ecotourists wanted to explore tropical, foreign countries. But a more recent Canadian government study found that two-thirds of recent U.S. and Canadian travelers interested in ecotourism would prefer to stay in North America for their next trip.

West Virginia has the nature activities down pat. All of the top 10 nature activities preferred by U.S. tourists, as identified by a 1998 tourism industry survey, are available in West Virginia: visiting parks, hiking, exploring preserved areas, viewing wildlife, walking nature trails in ecosystems, visiting unique natural places such as sinkholes, environmental education, bird watching, biking and freshwater fishing.

Organizations like Williams' want to make sure ecotourists are satisfied with the other aspects of their stay. An Eastern Panhandle group, the Ecology Coalition of Morgan County, includes ecotourism lodging operators and others who set up packages such as this spring's "Redbud Weekend" and "Birdwatchers' Weekend," making it easy for tourists.

Nature tourists have a reputation for not spending much money. But several studies indicate that ecotourists actually spend more than regular tourists.

"There are a couple of stereotypes that go around with ecotourism," Carol Patterson, author of "The Business of Ecotourism," told West Virginia tourism operators at a conference in Flatwoods.

"I think it's one of those things that accounts for the slow start of ecotourism. A lot of people have this idea that ecotourists are kind of granola-ey, tree-hugging, wool sock-wearing, cheap tourists ... That's not the case. We've actually found that they spend quite a bit of money."

Ecotourists, experts say, are willing to pay people to provide them with nature experiences -- whitewater rafting, mountain climbing, observing rare wild animals -- that they don't have the equipment or expertise to experience on their own.

Besides those experiences, West Virginia offers something that is very simple, but hard to find in the populous Eastern United States, Patterson said.


"We often overlook those sorts of features when we're putting together our ecotourism ...You can offer that solitude, that return to nature that these other people can't."

To see more of The Charleston Gazette, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.wvgazette.com.

Source: Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

Laotians Thatch Roof to Buffer Conference Venue from Earsplitting Rain

July 25, 2005 — By Associated Press

VIENTIANE, Laos — Planners in impoverished Laos needed a fix for the cacophony of rain pelting the metal roof of their conference venue. So they thatched it with local grass.

The building in the Laotian capital looks like a converted airplane hanger with corrugated roofing panels that sizzle like Niagara Falls when the rain pours hard.

To allow VIPs at a six-day Asian security conference through Friday to hear one another, organizers at the Lao ITECC building put clumps of grass on corners of the roof that extend over key meeting rooms -- though they've left the rest unthatched.

'Even if there is a downpour now, it will not disturb the meeting because we have grass covering the roof. The rain will hit the grass, not the roof,' said Yong Chanthalangsy, the conference spokesman.

Organizers spent 60 million kip (US$6,000; euro4,941.12) on the long indigenous grass, applying an additional layer Sunday, Yong said.

The building also served -- without noise pollution -- for an Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit last November. But this week's ASEAN Regional Forum comes during the rainy season, when tropical Vientiane turns from brick-red and dusty to verdant and lush.

The cavernous main hall where journalists, lower-level officials and Laotian organizers roam was as loud as ever during an afternoon deluge Sunday.

'It's very noisy,' said Kadama Katsushiro, reporter for Japanese broadcaster TBS. 'This is my first time coming to Laos, and the building is better than I expected, but the noise is terrible.'

Source: Associated Press

Geologist Maps Underseas Terrain in Massachusetts

July 25, 2005 — By Jay Lindsay, Associated Press

BOSTON — When geologist Page Valentine steams out for a trip off the state's picturesque coastline, he's far more interested in what he can't see. Valentine has been using sophisticated sonar to map 1,400 square miles of ocean floor off the Massachusetts coast for 11 years.

He's discovered networks of underwater ridges and valleys, the remains of long-forgotten shipwrecks and underwater gouges left by ancient icebergs.

Valentine sees the maps as a basic tool for government regulators who must manage the miles of hidden land. The maps can also point fishermen toward productive areas, direct more efficient placement of underwater cables and give researchers the location of vulnerable or changing ocean habitats.

'These submerged lands off our shores are a huge area about which we know very little. ... You need a map,' said Valentine, a researcher with the U.S. Geological Survey in Woods Hole.

The project to map the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary and the area around it began in 1994, shortly after it was created. The 840 square mile sanctuary is a busy shipping and fishing area about 21 miles east of Boston where marine life and habitats are under federal protection.

The first phase mapped the general topography of the sea floor. The second captured photographic images of the bottom. The third set, to be completed in about 2008, will map plant and animal life and habitats.

The ocean floor is mapped by equipment that sends 60 to 120 sonar beams bouncing off the bottom as a boat sweeps the surface. The sonar can measure the varying depths, as well as how hard the floor is in certain spots, with a weaker signal indicating a softer surface, such as mud.

Researchers are also using a sophisticated camera system which floats centimeters above the seabed, filming and taking pictures to help map the bottom's biology and geology.

The years of study have uncovered gouges in the floor, kilometers long, left from icebergs that grounded in the shallow waters of Stellwagen Bank 10,000 years ago and melted.

More than 50 shipwrecks have also been found, Valentine said, though identifying specific ships is difficult because the resolution of the mapping isn't fine enough -- the wrecks simply appear as unusual shapes on the bottom.

The maps helped workers take a southern route around a rough-bottomed area off Jeffreys Ledge, just off Cape Ann, and lay a fiber-optic cable connecting Europe to Massachusetts.

The mapping has also better defined the boundaries of underwater ledges, as well as areas of hard and soft bottom, of which fishermen have had general knowledge for centuries. More precise mapping helps fishermen better approach the margins of rough terrain, where fish often congregate, without snagging their gear. Or, it can help them avoid rough areas altogether, said Bob Reid, chief of coastal ecology at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center.

The mapping can give clues about where commercially valuable species can be found. Certain fish, such as yellowtail flounder, find food near sandy-bottomed areas. Cod often prefer hard gravel bottoms. All fish are dependent on the ocean floor, and managers want to determine which areas most need protection.

'Some habitat types are more vulnerable than others and we want to know that,' Reid said

Besides scientists, Valentine has given the maps to commercial and recreational fisherman and whale watch operators interested in showing customers the lay of the land they're floating over. Valentine said the enthusiasm that greets the maps can be explained as excitement over a look at what's always has been hidden.

'It's like solving a mystery,' he said.

Source: Associated Press

Scientists Say Many More Right Whales May Be Dying than Previously Thought

July 25, 2005 — By Jay Lindsay, Associated Press

BOSTON — More than eight in 10 right whale deaths may be going undiscovered, according to marine scientists who called for emergency action to help prevent humans from accidentally killing the rare animal.

In an article published in the journal Science, researchers estimated that deaths of North Atlantic right whales may be underreported by as much as 83 percent annually. At least eight whales have died in the last 16 months, and only 350 of the animals are believed to exist.

There isn't time for proposed protections to slog through the federal rule-making process, Amy Knowlton, a New England Aquarium researcher and one of the article's 18 co-authors, said Friday.

'We can't wait to deal with a bureaucratic maze,' Knowlton said.

Federal regulators say emergency rules could be put in place six months earlier than the normal 18- to 24-month process but would not be permanent and would not save much time since the final rules are close to completion. Rules also could do more harm than good without proper review and public comment, officials say.

The estimate of unreported whale deaths is based on a population model that considers the known death rates of male, female and juvenile right whales. Scientists don't presume a whale dead until it hasn't been seen for six years.

The Science article, citing the Endangered Species Act, called for emergency rules to protect against ship strikes and fishing gear entanglements, the two primary ways that humans kill right whales.

Proposed rules include slowing down ships in whale-heavy areas and reducing the amount of floating fishing line in the water. Gear and voluntary speed restrictions are already in place, but the new rules would significantly broaden requirements and improve their effectiveness, advocates say.

'We really do have tangible solutions in hand,' Knowlton said.

Teri Frady, spokeswoman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Service, said final rules to protect whales from fishing gear entanglements should be in force by the end of the year and the ship strike rules should be in place by spring of 2006.

'It's not that doing something dramatic isn't possible,' Frady said. 'It's figuring out what it's going to be and whether it's going to work.'

The proposed rules have been questioned by fishermen, who worry new whale-safe gear requirements would be too expensive, and the shipping industry, which says it would lose money and compromise safety by slowing down or altering routes to avoid the animals.

The North Atlantic right whale was nearly hunted out of existence in the late 18th century and has struggled since. Scientists said the eight recent deaths were particularly devastating because four were females just starting to bear calves.

Source: Associated Press

Greenpeace Wants Halt to Deep Seas Bottom-Trawling

July 26, 2005 — By David Ljunggren, Reuters

OTTAWA — Greenpeace issued a fresh call Monday to stop the practice of bottom-trawling, saying the international organizations that manage fish stocks were doing nothing to stop the destruction of ocean beds.

The conservation group says trawlers hunting for fish such as the orange roughy let their nets drag along the seabed at depths of up to 2 km (1.2 miles), destroying everything in their wake.

'We have documented an enormous range of the deep sea life that's coming up in these nets, including 500-year-old pieces of coral that are just ripped out of the seabed and (then) tossed back over the side,' said Bunny McDiarmid of Greenpeace.

Last year a group of international scientists blamed around a dozen nations for the practice, including Russia, Japan, New Zealand, Iceland and Norway.

World fish stocks are managed by a number of regional international bodies and last year the United Nations General Assembly asked these groupings to look into bottom-trawling.

But Greenpeace said Monday that the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO), which covers Canadian waters, and other such groups were very poor on protecting species.

A Greenpeace statement said an estimated 60 percent of bottom-trawling took place in the northwest Atlantic, most of it in the NAFO area.

'They've done an incredibly bad job of managing the fish for the last 25 years ... NAFO has an appalling record,' said McDiarmid, co-author of a critical report on NAFO released by Greenpeace Monday.

McDiarmid said the regional organizations only cover 25 percent of the high seas and are focused on fish stocks rather than preservation.

She called for 'a time-out' on bottom-trawling until proper rules can be worked out and criticized the Canadian government for not supporting a moratorium on bottom trawling.

Fisheries Minister Geoff Regan said that while he agreed regional fisheries bodies needed to become more efficient, the idea of a blanket ban on bottom trawling was unrealistic.

'It's clear to us that there are certainly types of (sea) bottoms where bottom-trawling doesn't do significant damage,' he told Reuters in a telephone interview.

'Saying (we should) ... ban all of it is really a blanket broad brush approach that isn't going to be successful and isn't going to target the key problem,' he said.

Source: Reuters

Scientists Lead Sea Expedition from Land

July 26, 2005 — By Richard C. Lewis, Associated Press

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The ship with all the gadgets and underwater rovers is in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, but for the first time, the team of scientists directing the expedition is not on board. They're sitting inside a room thousands of miles away.

The scientists and technicians are at universities in Rhode Island, Washington and New Hampshire, watching 52-inch plasma television screens as an unmanned submersible pokes around the Lost City hydrothermal vents -- a forest of limestone chimneys on the ocean floor.

Wearing headsets, the expedition's leaders stationed at the University of Washington tell engineers on the ship where to send the robotic vehicle and its high-definition video cameras, and what to explore next.

'We're treated like the chief scientist on the ship that makes the decision about it. It's just that we're not there,' said Deborah Kelley, a geology professor at the University of Washington and one of the expedition's leaders.

The technology that's allowing this to happen is the brainchild of Robert Ballard, the undersea explorer who found the Titanic and is director of an archaeological oceanography program at the University of Rhode Island.

Through fiber-optic cables, satellite feeds, and a special, high-speed Internet connection, images transmitted by the roving submersible's cameras about a half-mile underwater at Lost City are being transmitted within 1.5 seconds -- essentially live -- to the three 'control' rooms.

The underwater probes operate around the clock, to maximize the amount of research on the trip, scheduled to last until Aug. 1. The scientists in Seattle are working in six-hour shifts to keep a constant lookout for any finds.

The entire expedition is being shown live at 24 museums, science centers and aquariums and at 50 Boys and Girls Clubs nationwide.

The technology means ships can go out longer and do more exploring of the oceans, since the scientists no longer need to be on board. Ballard said he sees research vessels on the ocean for most of the year -- mapping, probing and yielding more discoveries that could hasten knowledge of the oceans, which cover about 70 percent of Earth but which scientists concede they still know little about.

'No scientist will sit on (a ship) for that long, reading a book and eating popcorn for the whole time, no way,' Ballard said.

While the expedition's leaders are in Seattle, the University of Rhode Island is producing the shows, and the University of New Hampshire is taking data from the ship and producing topographical maps of the sea floor, Ballard said.

Other scientists can keep tabs on the expedition through a link on the Internet2 network. That's important, the Lost City leaders said, because it means they can call upon specialists on a moment's notice to comment on something that has just been discovered.

'So, I'm able to network experts on demand, when I need them,' Ballard said.

Lost City is located at the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, a north-south underwater mountain chain that splits nearly the entire Atlantic Ocean. The site yields dramatic video because some of its limestone chimneys created by crystallized fluids are 200 feet tall.

Hydrothermal vents were first discovered by Ballard in 1977 near the Galapagos Islands in the Pacific. Lost City, discovered five years ago, shows that small animals, such as the tiny, translucent snails found around the chimneys, can survive in the extreme environment of the ocean floor.

Life is sustained there by the heat and gases emitted by the vents -- a process that scientists believe is similar to what happened on Earth in its earliest days. That's one reason they're now exploring and mapping the site in such detail.

'That's one reason we think this could happen on other planets,' said Jeffrey Karson, a geology professor at Duke University. 'It's that simple.'

Source: Associated Press

Now Streaming Live: Pacific Walruses

July 26, 2005 — By Timothy Inklebarger, Associated Press

JUNEAU, Alaska — Wallowing and snorting as they jockey for position on the rocks, the two-ton walruses may not be the prettiest of Internet reality show stars. But two cameras installed at the Walrus Islands State Game Sanctuary off Alaska's southwest coast are giving scientists and Web surfers alike the chance to follow the drama of the Bering Sea mammals' everyday lives.

The Alaska Department of Fish & Game has installed the 'walrus cams' on Round Island in the Bering Sea, giving online viewers a chance to see the walruses in their natural habitat on the Web page for the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward.

Joe Meehan, a Fish & Game lands and refuges coordinator, said the walrus cams provide an essential research tool for wildlife biologists and entertainment for wildlife enthusiasts.

'Monitoring walrus populations is a difficult and expensive task that requires observers at each remote location,' Meehan said.

The department has staff on the island counting walruses every day, and the cameras will help the effort.

'Web cameras may ultimately allow for more accurate and economical walrus counts,' Meehan said.

For the more casual observer, Jason Wettstein of the Alaska SeaLife Center said the center is providing the bandwidth necessary for Internet users to view the live shots.

'We've already gotten a lot of hits,' he said.

A terminal and monitor installed at the Alaska SeaLife Center will give visitors a chance to switch between three preset camera angles for viewing the walruses. Mike Pendergast, a computer scientist for the center's research department, said the big screen is expected to be operational within the next few days.

What Web surfers will see is a live stream from the cameras set a quarter of a mile apart above the shore. The cameras look down on the rocky beach and catch all the action of a half-dozen or more Pacific walruses at a time while they are at rest or at play in their natural environment.

Meehan said the walrus counts on the islands vary significantly from year to year. In 2000, about 8,500 were counted on the island. This year the highest count so far is 2,300.

The lower numbers are probably not a sign of a declining population, but many have likely relocated to abandoned haulouts in Bristol Bay that were used through the mid-1900s until commercial harvesting drove the walruses away, he said.

The project cost about $40,000 and is a joint effort by Fish & Game, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Pacific Walrus Conservation Fund, the National Parks Service and the Alaska SeaLife Center.

Meehan said the main focus of the project is to educate and promote conservation. Along with the walruses, the islands are home to sea lions and about a quarter of a million sea birds.

Source: Associated Press

Queen Elizabeth to Use Water to Help Power Windsor Castle

July 26, 2005 — By Associated Press

LONDON — Queen Elizabeth II plans to use water from the River Thames to help power Windsor Castle in the Royal family's latest environmental project, Buckingham Palace announced Monday.

The 1 million pound (US$1.7 million; euro1.4 million) project, to be completed by the end of 2006, will power nearly one-third of Windsor Castle -- the largest occupied castle in the world. Buckingham Palace said it was pleased that approval had been granted to power the residence.

Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles and other members of the Royal household have long embraced environmental causes and projects. The Queen's husband, Prince Phillip, uses a taxi powered by natural gas when he is driven around London. Previously he used an electrically driven minibus.

'We're constantly looking at ways of saving energy. We use energy efficient light bulbs at Buckingham Palace,' an announcement said.

The project will generate 200 kilowatts of electricity from four turbines that will be submerged in an existing weir, or dam system, near the castle. According to the palace, the underwater turbines will be virtually invisible and silent.

This project should also contribute to an effort by the government to produce 10 percent of the country's power from renewable sources by 2010 and 15 percent by 2015. The targets are part of an effort to help combat global warming.

Environmental groups say that small scale electricity production, using solar, wind or water systems could help Britain meet those targets.

'We're delighted that the queen is taking a lead in the use of green electricity to help tackle global warming,' said Tony Juniper, director of the environmental group Friends of the Earth. 'Most homes wouldn't use hydroelectricity, but they could install solar panels or small wind turbines instead.'

Source: Associated Press

Canon Unveils Recycling Program to Consumers

July 27, 2005 — By ENN

LAKE SUCCESS, N.Y. — Imaging and copy giant Canon has announced a recycling program for its products. The recycling of used and obsolete electronic products is becoming an issue throughout the consumer and office electronics products industry.

'We want to work with our customers to ensure appropriate recycling of certain Canon consumer products to help the environment and local communities,' said Mario Rufino, of the environmental management and product safety department, corporate planning division at Canon U.S.A., Inc, a subsidiary of Canon Inc. (NYSE: CAJ). 'We are pleased to announce our Consumer Products Recycling Program to assist Canon customers in the United States in recycling end-of-life Canon products.'

To recycle eligible Canon products, consumers can log on to http://estore.usa.canon.com/recycle/recycle.asp and for a nominal fee, order a UPS shipping label by clicking the 'Recycle Now' button. The shipping label will be sent via e-mail. If the printer being used does not print labels, customers can call 1.800.385.2155 to order over the phone and receive a shipping label by mail.

Pricing covers the cost of shipment and recycling. The fee structure is based on product category and includes:

-- $6, plus applicable sales tax - Binoculars, Camcorders, Cameras, Compact Photo Printers, Film, Scanners and Video Equipment
-- $12, plus applicable sales tax - Flatbed Scanners (CanoScan) and Bubble Jet Products: printers, multifunction all-in-ones and fax machines
-- $36, plus applicable sales tax - ImageCLASS Products, Laser Fax Machines and PC Copiers

Consumers will need to provide the Canon model name and product serial number to place the order. Once the product is packed and ready for shipment, take the box to a UPS-designated drop-off facility anywhere in the United States. UPS drop sites can be located by visiting www.ups.com or by calling 1.800.CALL.UPS. Upon receipt, the product will be recycled through a licensed recycling facility in an environmentally sound manner.

For a list of eligible consumer recycling products, log on to http://estore.usa.canon.com/recycle/recycle.asp. For a list of frequently asked questions or for further questions regarding the program, contact Canon by email at recyclesupport@cits.canon.com, or by phone at 1-800-385-2155.

About Canon U.S.A., Inc.

Canon U.S.A., Inc. provides imaging and copy machines and services. Its parent company Canon Inc. (NYSE:CAJ) in 2004 had global revenues of $33.3 billion. For more information, visit www.usa.canon.com.

Source: Business Wire, Canon U.S.A.


Researcher Trying to Breed Tropical Fish

July 27, 2005 — By Associated Press

BIDDEFORD, Maine — A University of New England researcher is working to breed a tropical aquarium fish in captivity in an effort to take pressure off fragile ecosystems in Southeast Asia that are being damaged by unsustainable harvesting of exotic fish species.

Jeri Fox is raising a pair of foxface rabbitfish in a tank in a basement lab at the university. The fish are distinctive with bright yellow fins, bulging eyes and puckered lips.

Trading in tropical aquarium fish began in the 1930s in Sri Lanka. The modern industry, estimated to be worth at least $200 million annually, still relies heavily on poor coastal communities in southeast Asia.

While the trade can provide good jobs in depressed areas and can contribute to the conservation of coral reefs, many harvesting practices are thought to be unsustainable, according to a 2003 United Nations report.

The report cites problems such as overfishing, the collection of live rock, and the use of sodium cyanide to stun and catch fish. Also troubling is the destruction of coral reefs, which support one-third of the planet's marine fish species, the report says.

'The aquarium trade will continue. It's not going to stop,' Fox said. 'So we want to supply it with fish that are raised, not destructively removed from the wild.'

Efforts are under way to change how the fish are caught. In 2001, the Marine Aquarium Council, a nonprofit organization based in Honolulu, introduced certification standards for shippers and importers. It also is working with fishermen in Indonesia and the Philippines to develop fishery management plans.

At the same time, some scientists are successfully breeding certain aquarium fish in captivity. In Terre Haute, Ind., Dan Denker raises clownfish, seahorses and coral.

Denker said that growing coral outside the ocean helps marine ecosystems because it reduces the demand for naturally occurring coral, which supports a host of underwater species.

'It does take stress off the oceans,' he said.

But only a small percentage of the roughly 1,500 tropical fish species traded worldwide have been bred successfully in captivity, and the foxface rabbitfish is not among them.

A key reason is the fish's small size, only about two millimeters at spawning. The fish's mouth is no more than half a millimeter wide, making it difficult to provide appropriate food.

Breeding tropical fish involves reproducing the species' spawning conditions as closely as possible. That can mean analyzing the protein content of the fish's eggs to try to replicate its diet, and using lights to simulate the lunar cycle.

The process can be painstaking, and some scientists have been trying to breed the same species for 15 years, said Fox.

The foxface rabbitfish is not being taken from the ocean in a conscientious way, she said, which makes it a good candidate for captive breeding.

Source: Associated Press


People, pollution threaten Nairobi wildlife

26 July, Reuters
By Andrew Cawthorne

NAIROBI (Reuters) - A giraffe nibbles lazily at an acacia tree. Buffalos graze on the plains. Tourists with binoculars scan for hippos in streams running down wooded hills. It may look like a typical view of an idyllic African safari -- but Nairobi National Park is rather different.

Just yards behind the safari park outside the Kenyan capital, factories belch gray smoke into the sky while a slum pushes ever closer to the fence. Aircraft roar over the park from a nearby airport, though there is barely a rustle from the animals below, so used are they to noise pollution.

On the other side, where the park melds into the plains of the Rift Valley, hundreds of homesteads dot the landscape, blocking the migration in and out for thousands of wild animals.

As it approaches its 60th anniversary in 2006, campaigners warn that Nairobi National Park -- one of Africa's oldest and most unique -- may soon go out of existence if the urban sprawl continues and tourists are put off by falling animal numbers.

"This is the only natural park right next to a city on earth. And this was east Africa's first designated national park," senior warden Gideon Amboga said. "But the problems it faces are immense. The future of the park is under threat if we do not take serious measures now."

A combination of diverse factors including pollution, population growth and poaching have left the park in a precarious situation and animal numbers dwindling drastically.

Once teeming with animals, and famous for its unique black rhino population, the park is already becoming a shadow of its former self as a major tourist attraction and animal sanctuary

A mere eight or so lions remain in the 117 square km park, according to one local group running a Web Site called "Save the Nairobi National Park Lions." Wildebeest numbers have dropped from 9,742 in 1990 to just 64 in 2002, said the group's Ian Cowie, son of a park founder, showing Kenya Wildlife Service figures. Zebras are down from 2,566 to 1,403 over the same period, while impala are down to 419 from 1,298..

"Unless something happens within the next year, it's gone," Cowie said of the park's plight.

Local Kenyan media have also taken up the cause. "Nairobi mauls its own wildlife," was how the daily Nation put it in a recent headline. "Having accepted that the march to progress is inevitable, we must face up to the fact that man-made hazards, such as population encroachment and pollution, will continue," it said in an editorial.

"So we must work out a counter-strategy to sustain the wildlife habitat ... If no action is taken now, this wonderful heritage could be lost for ever."

Kenya Wildlife Service, which runs the park, says it has begun aggressive measures to save the sanctuary. It wants to subject the 30 or so factories on the northern city side to annual "environmental audits" to reduce pollution. It is negotiating with settlers on the southern side -- where the animals used to migrate in huge numbers -- to at least avoid fence structures on their land.

"In 1966, we had two Maasai homesteads. Now there are more than 1,000," Amboga said as he drove round the park on a recent afternoon. "The settlements here have almost blocked the entrance. But bit-by-bit we're reaching agreements with people to not fence but let wildlife graze on their land."


There is also the perennial problem of poaching for lucrative bush-meat. Poachers lace the park with snares and also use torches at night to stun animals.

The growing proliferation of flower farms upstream are also threatening the park's water supplies. "They are boring holes which are destroying the water basin. If this continues, we will have a barren aquifer. The government has to regulate this," Amboga said.

The park faces a vicious circle if matters do not improve. Tourism numbers, at about 10,000 a month, are already low for a park right next to a capital city of about three million which is the main arrivals hub for visitors to east Africa. But those numbers -- with their all-important revenues to finance improvements -- are unlikely to grow if the park's wildlife stock becomes more depleted.

"The lions were the main attraction to the park," Cowie said. "Without these lions there are not enough kills to maintain lower tiers of life," he added, citing the chain of life from vultures and other scavengers down to insects.

In a charged debate among local wildlife experts, some are recommending the park be fenced off completely. That would block what is left of the migration and, say opponents, "strangle" the park. But at least it would halt the interaction between people and animals at the mouth of the park and allow for close management of remaining stock.

"If the fencing is done, it should be possible in the coming years to capture the trickle of animals that still exists," said Imre Loefler, of the East Africa Wildlife Society. "The old park has already vanished and what remains is just a sick and mismanaged relic."

(Original article)


News Review for Week of July 11, 2005

"A true conservationist is a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers but borrowed from his children."

- Audobon

Shark Week More 'Must-Sea' Than Usual
July 17, 2005 (AP - By LYNN ELBER)
Discovery Channel's Shark Week has been must-sea TV since it began in 1988, but the timing this year — following two shark attacks off the coast of Florida — makes it especially compelling.
In the lineup that includes four new programs, Discovery attempts to set the record straight on questions including whether sharks are attracted by certain bright colors or are aware of even a drop of blood in the ocean.
An online companion site at discovery.com includes interactive puzzles and games, video, photo galleries and maps charting shark attacks on humans over the past five years.
The action starts with the two-hour "Mythbusters: Jaws Special," 9 p.m. EDT Sunday. Scientists Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman visit shark-filled waters of the Bahamas and California's Farallon Islands to investigate whether the shark behavior depicted in the thriller "Jaws" is accurate, including whether a punch in the nose can be a deterrent and if a scuba tank can serve as an anti-shark explosive device.
"Sharkbite! Surviving Great Whites," 9 p.m. Monday, relates tales of people who survived encounters with the awesome creatures, while "American Shark," 9 p.m. Tuesday, focuses on the sharks that prowl America's coasts.
"Shark Hunter: Chasing the Great White," 9 p.m. Thursday, concludes the week. The special profiles Frank Mundus, who served as a model for the character of Capt. Quint in "Jaws." Mundus made a record-setting rod-and-reel catch of a 3,000-pound-plus great white before shifting from shark hunter to conservationist.
[read more]

Record fall salmon run begins on Sacramento River
July 16, 2005 (AP - By DON THOMPSON)
SACRAMENTO -- Nearly a million salmon are returning up the Sacramento River, luring eager fishermen as the fishing season began Saturday.
"It's a great river for salmon and this is supposed to be a record year," said Mike Cottrell of Marysville, fishing with his wife and another couple among a dozen boats near the confluence of the Sacramento and American rivers Saturday morning. "We've seen a lot of guys taking them ... probably a dozen since we went out about daybreak."
Environmental groups hailed the record return as a conservation success story, while fisheries managers said high water and prime ocean conditions also contributed.
They all contrast it with the troubled Klamath River to the north. A small projected salmon return there is sharply limiting commercial salmon fishing in the ocean because fishermen can't distinguish between the plentiful Sacramento and the scarce Klamath salmon.
"We've taken a huge economic loss because of the (commercial ocean fisheries) closure. The fishermen aren't happy about it, but they understand. Because they can't take fish, (salmon) are coming back to the Sacramento by the carload," said Bill Kier, a private fisheries scientist who works closely with commercial fishermen.
[read more]

Fake Shark Skin Could Make Navy Fleet Faster
15 July 2005 (LiveScience - By Robert Roy Britt)
Few creatures spawn more fear than sharks. But these complex fish also have provided inspiration for several useful technologies. One new idea has captured the interest of the U.S. Navy.
Shark skin has been used by many cultures as sandpaper. It's kept shipmates safe in slippery-when-wet conditions. Swimsuits modeled on shark skin are said by Speedo to reduce drag by up to 4 percent.
Now, research by two separate groups could lead to synthetic shark skin that would make ships and submarines faster and less expensive to operate.
If the research pans out, submarines -- already stealthy and shark-like -- could become even more so.
[read more]

Wind farms could meet energy needs
July 15, 2005 (CNN)
Wind power could generate more than enough sustainable electricity to meet global energy needs, according to new research.
Scientists at Stanford University have produced a world map that plots wind power potential for the first time.
They say that harnessing even 20 percent of that energy would produce eight times more electricity than the world consumed in 2000.
"The main implication of this study is that wind, for low-cost wind energy, is more widely available than was previously recognized," said Cristina Archer, formerly of Stanford's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.
Archer and colleague Mark Jacobsen collected wind-speed measurements from 7,500 surface stations and 500 balloon-launch stations to determine wind speeds at 80 meters (300 feet) -- the height of modern turbines.
They found average wind speeds capable of generating power -- upwards of 6.9 meters per second, or 15 miles an hour -- in 13 percent of the stations and in all regions of the globe.
[read more]

Beaver Dams Inspire Fish-Friendly Hydropower Design
July 15, 2005 (National Geographic News – by John Roach)
Hydropower—electricity produced by flowing water—is an efficient form of renewable energy, but it often comes at a high cost to the environment and society. Now a technology inspired by beaver dams and airplanes may help eliminate these drawbacks.
Engineers with NatEl America, a Grapevine, Texas-based renewable energy company, have developed a new way to generate electricity using the dimensions of a beaver dam and the physics of fixed-wing aircraft.
"We need to figure out how to live with the acceleration [of water] due to gravity in a fashion which is comparable to how beavers have done that," said NatEl America's president, Daniel Schneider.
Beaver dams usually stand no more than ten feet (three meters) tall and integrate a series of steps into the slope. This is a height and design surmountable by migrating fish, Schneider said. The dams are also a natural part of the environment in many parts of the world.
In contrast, conventional hydropower technologies often rely on the construction of tall dams that flood the area behind them. This displaces animals and people, and it degrades the surrounding ecosystem, said Abe Schneider, Daniel's son and the company's vice president of engineering.
[read more]

Lobster Soup to Debut at Hong Kong Disney
July 15, 2005 (AP)
HONG KONG, China -- Lobster soup and seafood bouillon will replace the controversial shark fin soup at Hong Kong Disneyland wedding banquets, a Disney spokeswoman said Friday.
Last month, Disney decided to scrap shark fin soup, a symbol of prestige in Chinese banquets, after environmentalists protested and threatened to stage boycotts of the park when it opens Sept. 12. The activists say that the shark fin industry is decimating the shark population.
The dish will be replaced by lobster soup and a dish with sea whelk, a bouillon with bamboo fungus and crab roe, Disney spokeswoman Irene Chan said.
"We are confident the change will not affect the attractiveness of our weddings," Chan said. "The dishes are specially designed, and these menu alternatives can reflect respect for Chinese culture."
[read more]

Glacial Cover-Up Won't Stop Global Warming, But It Keeps Skiers Happy
July 15, 2005 (AP — By George Jahn)
EISGRAT, Austria — It gets so cold up at this Alpine skiing station that the locals call it Eisgrat -- "Icy Spine." But Eisgrat's spine is melting.
A sign on a sheer cliff wall nearby points to a mountain hut. It should have been at visitors' eye level but is more than 20 meters (60 feet) above their heads. That's how much of the glacier has shrunk since the sign went up 35 years ago.
"It's not a good feeling," says Alois Ranalter, a maintenance worker who spends his summers focused on stopping the melt. "The glacier is our life."
Most of Austria's 925 glaciers have been receding under decades of global warming, prompting researchers and ski-lift operators to seek novel solutions. Here, in the Tyrol region of western Austria, they're fighting the melt by covering the weak spots with blankets of white plastic or foil that keep the cold in and the heat out.
They can't save whole glaciers, only slow the shrinkage.
[read more]

Scientists Raise Alarm About Ocean Health
July 14, 2005 (AP)
SEATTLE — With a record number of dead seabirds washing up on West Coast beaches from Central California to British Columbia, marine biologists are raising the alarm about rising ocean temperatures and dwindling plankton populations.
"Something big is going on out there," said Julia Parrish, an associate professor in the School of Aquatic Fisheries and Sciences at the University of Washington. "I'm left with no obvious smoking gun, but birds are a good signal because they feed high up on the food chain."
Coastal ocean temperatures are 2 to 5 degrees above normal, which may be related to a lack of updwelling, in which cold, nutrient-rich water is brought to the surface.
Updwelling is fueled by northerly winds that sweep out near-shore waters and bring cold water to the surface. The process starts the marine food chain, fueling algae and shrimplike krill populations that feed small fish, which then provide a source of food for a variety of sea life from salmon to sea birds and marine mammals.
On Washington beaches, bird surveyors in May typically find an average of one dead Brandt's cormorant every 34 miles of beach. This year, cormorant deaths averaged one every eight-tenths of a mile, according to data gathered by volunteers with the Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team, which Parrish has directed since 2000.
[read more]

Animal Rights Group Sues Over Sea Lions
July 14, 2005 (AP — By Jeannette J. Lee)
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — An animal rights group filed a lawsuit Wednesday accusing the federal government of violating several environmental protection acts by allowing the use of certain research techniques on threatened and endangered Steller sea lions.
The Humane Society of the United States says the National Marine Fisheries Service has approved permits for "invasive" research activities, including the annual capture, hot branding and tissue sampling of more than 3,000 Steller sea lions in both eastern and western stocks.
Humane Society officials said the research practices violate the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act.
"The obligation of scientists and the government to do no harm while conducting research is greatest when dealing with endangered species," said Dr. John Grandy, senior vice president for wildlife and habitat protection for the Washington, D.C.-based society.
The steep decline in Steller sea lion populations from the late 1970s through 2000 continues to confound scientists and resource managers.
The Steller sea lion habitat roughly follows the rim of the North Pacific Ocean from northern Japan to the south coast of Alaska. The animals also live on California's Channel Islands.
The number of Steller sea lions in the western stock dropped from about 200,000 originally to 35,000 animals in 2002, federal fisheries scientists estimate. Scientists do not know the original population level of the genetically distinct eastern group, but as of 2002 there were 31,000 animals, with numbers on the rise.
[read more]

Scientists Wary of Red Tide Recurrence
July 14, 2005 (AP - By JAY LINDSAY)
BOSTON — The red tide that shut down shellfish beds from Maine to Buzzards Bay is fading, but scientists are worried that the toxic tide could return to coastal waters as soon as this fall.
The red tide algae drops armored cysts on the ocean floor which act like seeds, bringing the tide back as many as 10 years later. But the cyst can also germinate in just a few months, said Don Anderson, a red tide expert from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod.
"One of the things we're worried about is that we might see a fall surge of these cells," he said Thursday.
The toxic algae is absorbed by shellfish, making them unsafe to eat. Officials emphasize that the shellfish on the market are safe, given the extensive safeguards in place.
About half the 1.2 million acres of shellfish beds that Massachusetts shut down beginning in mid-May remained closed on Thursday. The tide has cost shellfishermen about $2.7 million in lost income, though the number could rise as high as $7 million, Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey said.
[read more]

Sea birds fly pollution to the Arctic
Bird guano makes for hotspots of toxins.

14 July, 2005 (Nature – by Andreas von Bubnoff)
Pollution is swept to pristine areas of the Arctic by wind and sea. But now researchers have pinned down an important mode of transport that creates local toxic hotspots: sea birds.
Canadian researchers have found that lakes in the Arctic that are frequented by northern fulmars (Fulmarus glacialis) can harbour 10-60 times more pollutants than neighbouring, birdless lakes. These pollutants include persistent, toxic compounds such as mercury, DDT and hexachlorobenzene (HCB), which were once common ingredients in pesticides and fungicides.
Jules Blais of the University of Ottawa, Ontario, and colleagues looked at freshwater ponds that sit below the cliffs at Cape Vera on northern Devon Island in the Canadian Arctic. During the summer months, these cliffs harbour the nests of about 20,000 of the migratory fulmars. Pollutants enter the ponds through the birds' excrement, the researchers say.
The key to the study was finding an area with several lakes that differed only in the number of birds living above them. By comparing 11 lakes that hosted different bird colonies, the researchers weeded out exactly how much impact the birds and their guano have on the environment. In some of the more contaminated lakes, they found that mercury concentrations approach or exceed the Canadian guidelines for protecting wildlife, Blais says. They report their results in Science (Blais J., et al. Science, 309. 445 (2005)).
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Seabirds Fly Pollutants to Arctic Coast, Study Says
July 14, 2005 (National Geographic News – by James Owen)
With rising levels of toxins in the Arctic threatening wildlife and humans alike, scientists are on the hunt for what's behind the pollution boom. Wind currents carrying pollutants from industrialized countries are known to be largely responsible for toxins in the Arctic seas. But on the coasts birds are the key culprits, a new study says.
Researchers who studied a large seabird colony in the Canadian Arctic found that ponds below the birds' breeding cliffs are laced with persistent organic pollutants, or POPs.
The birds, it seems, are eating carrion, squid, and other marine animals from POP-contaminated seas. The flyers then return to their coastal home and deposit their contaminated prey—in the form of excrement—in local ponds, which see their POP levels skyrocket as a result.
Experts say the study adds to concerns over the impact of toxic substances on the health of the Arctic's wildlife and people.
"What's unique about this study is that it identifies a new method of bio-transmission that's potentially causing contamination to the local environment," said Russel Shearer. Shearer is the manager of the Canadian government's Northern Contaminants Program, based in Hull, Quebec. The program investigates the risks and impacts of chemical pollutants to remote communities in northern Canada.
"Such contamination should be taken more seriously," Shearer added.
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Old vessel launches new career in coral seas
Scientists aboard gear up to study decline of reefs

July 14, 2005 (SF Chronicle - by Jim Doyle)
The White Holly, which served in World War II as a Navy yard freighter on San Francisco Bay, is beginning a new life -- as an oceanographic research vessel for a scientific expedition that seeks to discover how and why so many of the Earth's coral reefs are dying.
The ship is scheduled to embark tonight from Oakland on an extraordinary voyage: a 7,000-mile roundtrip cruise to explore the mysteries of the world's most pristine coral reefs, and at least one uncharted atoll, halfway across the Pacific.
"This is research that can affect mankind," said Capt. Vincent Backen, the White Holly's skipper, who has piloted deep sea oil tankers into San Francisco Bay as well as foreign ports from Saipan to Aruba, Guam and Papua New Guinea. "That's the main reason I took the project on."
The 10-week voyage, led by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, will take the 133-foot White Holly to the Line Islands archipelago in the central Pacific, about 1,300 miles south of Honolulu, and explore some of the least-disturbed coral reefs in the world.
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MTV Damaged Sea Turtle Beach in Tobago
Endangered Sea Turtles Forced to Run "Gauntlet" to Nest

July 13, 2005 (Sea Turtle Restoration Project)
FOREST KNOLLS, CA — MTV's shooting of its reality TV show The Gauntlet on Turtle Beach in Tobago (of Trinidad & Tobago), caused massive damage to a critical nesting beach for critically endangered leatherback sea turtles. The shoot, which wrapped up earlier this month, continued with little concern for the nesting sea turtles despite requests by from a local conservation group to relocate.
Heavy equipment, the presence of about 90 film crew and the removal of sand blocked numerous turtles from nesting and destroyed an estimated 8 nests containing approximately 400 eggs. Numerous other eggs are now buried beneath densely compacted sand without any hope for escape for the hatchlings. The leatherback is considered critically endangered in the Atlantic by the World Conservation Union, which publishes the Red List of endangered species.
"Our input was sought only after the site had already been chosen by MTV and set assembly had already begun", said SOS Turtles Tobago vice president, Tanya Clovis.
The set was only later moved back a few feet but it still disrupted turtle nesting.
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Hurricane fixes artificial reef by righting ship
USS Spiegel Grove was on its side, but Dennis flipped it to perfect position

July 13, 2005 (MSNBC)
KEY LARGO, Fla. - What humans were unable to do, Hurricane Dennis handled nicely.
The former USS Spiegel Grove, serving as artificial reef on the bottom in 130 feet of water off Key Largo, flipped upright as the core of the storm passed some 200 miles to the west, kicking up 20-foot waves.
“Waves that high in close proximity to the reef can produce unusually strong currents with tremendous force,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Matt Strahan.
The upright position is what project organizers had wanted since the retired 510-foot ship prematurely sank and rolled over May 17, 2002, leaving its upside-down bow protruding from the water and creating a navigation hazard.
Salvage crews later used giant airbags and steel cables to nudge it over onto its starboard side, where it was safe from passing vessels but slightly disorienting for divers to swim through.
The Spiegel Grove is the most popular artificial wreck in the Florida Keys, home at least 166 different fish species, said Lad Akins of the Reef Environmental Education Foundation.
But its realignment will make it a better platform for sports divers.
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Officials probe young pelican deaths
July 13, 2005 (AP)
BISMARCK, North Dakota -- The Fish and Wildlife Service is investigating the deaths of thousands of young white pelicans at a wildlife refuge in central North Dakota, a year after thousands of adult birds abruptly left the same location.
At least 8,000 chicks may have died over the past two months, said Ken Torkelson, a spokesman for the Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge.
"The difference is, last year the adults left first," he said. "This year, the young have died and the adults have no reason to stick around."
Severe storms or a disease outbreak may have caused the mass die-off, said Marsha Sovada, a biologist at the U.S. Geological Survey's Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center in Jamestown.
The Fish and Wildlife Service said an inspection of the refuge last week indicated only about 500 chicks left from a nesting period that could have produced as many as 9,000 of them. All but about 2,000 adults had left, from a population estimated at 18,850 in late May.
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Bush administration asking court to block dam spills
July 13, 2005 (AP - By DAVID KRAVETS)
Seattle -- The Bush administration wants a federal appeals court to stop water from being purposely spilled over five Northwest hydroelectric dams despite a lower court's unprecedented order that it was necessary to help young salmon migrating to the Pacific.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was forced to allow substantial flows to bypass energy generating turbines following a June 20 order by U.S. District Judge James Redden of Portland. Redden ruled that the salmon were imperiled when swimming through those dams' turbines as they headed to the sea hundreds of miles away.
A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was set to hear the administration's demands to overturn Redden on Wednesday in Seattle.
At the request of salmon advocates, fishermen and Indian tribes, Redden ruled that "As currently operated, I find that the dams strongly contributed to the endangerment of the listed species and irreparable injury will result if changes are not made." His order began being carried out June 20, and is to last through Aug. 31.
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Man gets prison term for killing walruses
July 13, 2005 (AP)
ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- An Alaska Native was sentenced to a harsh seven years in federal prison for killing six walruses, removing the heads to sell the ivory and sinking the carcasses.
Herman A. Oyagak was on probation for felony assault when he participated in what prosecutors declared a wasteful killing of walruses in 2003. That, plus his criminal history, led to the harsh sentence, Assistant U.S. Attorney James Goeke said Tuesday.
Under federal law, Alaska Natives are allowed to hunt walruses for subsistence but they must use a substantial portion of the animal. In this case, the walruses were being killed for the ivory and bodies were abandoned, Goeke said.
A co-defendant in the case, Samuel Akpik, also of Barrow, previously was sentenced to two months in federal prison, two months of home confinement and a $500 fine.
Frequently, such illegal items end up at Anchorage gift shops, said Steve Oberholtzer, assistant special agent in charge of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Alaska. A bull walrus head mount -- just the tusks and nose plate mounted on a piece of wood -- can sell for $3,000 or more, he said.
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Last Journey for the Leatherback? to Be Broadcast on Free Speech TV
July 12, 2005 (Sea Turtle Restoration Project)
FOREST KNOLLS, CALIF. — The nonprofit Sea Turtle Restoration Project has released the new documentary, Last Journey for the Leatherback?, by the Emmy award-winning documentary filmmaker Stan Minasian (The Last Days of the Dolphins?), The Free Willy Story: Keiko's Journey Home). Last Journey for the Leatherback? will be broadcast nationwide on Free Speech TV which is carried by the Dish Network channel 9415 on Friday, July 15, 2005 at 4:14 a.m., 10:14 a.m., 2:44 p.m., 5:44 p.m., and 10:14 p.m. EST.
“Sea turtles are really symbolic of what’s happening to the oceans as a whole. As go sea turtles, so go, will go, the ocean,” explains Dr. Earle, a National Geographic explorer-in-residence, in the stunning natural duotone opening sequence of the film as dozens of newly hatched leatherback sea turtles crawl to the water under the moonlight.
Scientists predict that the giant Pacific leatherback sea turtle, which has survived unchanged for over 100 million years, could vanish in the next 5 to 30 years if current threats from wasteful industrial long-line fishing are not curtailed. The female nesting population of leatherback sea turtles in the Pacific Ocean has collapsed by 95 percent in the past 20 years. The leatherback is the largest sea turtle, measuring nine feet from head to tail with the largest ever recorded tipping the scales at 2,000 lbs.
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Ancient Mariners Phone Home
July 12, 2005 (Caribbean Conservation Corporation)
CHIRIQUI BEACH, PANAMA — Caribbean Conservation Corporation (CCC) and partner scientists this week completed the first-ever deployment of satellite transmitters on five critically endangered leatherback turtles at remote Chiriquí Beach on Panama’s Caribbean coast. Lightweight telemetry harnesses were attached to the five huge leatherbacks after they had come ashore and successfully nested. With nests dug, eggs laid, and sporting high-tech backpacks, Shelldon, Idun, Cristina, Fermina and Romana headed back to the open water, each equipped to “phone home.”
When these ancient mariners “phone home” it’s not just scientists who are picking up the call. Through CCC’s internet-based Sea Turtle Migration-Tracking Education Program (www.cccturtle.org), anyone with Internet access can follow the travels of the Chiriquí Beach leatherbacks. And as part of CCC’s Adopt-a-Turtle Program, enthusiasts can show their support by adopting one of as many as ten sea turtles being tracked right now.
“We got lucky,” says Dan Evans, field programs coordinator for CCC. “We had lots of turtles nesting the first two nights, then nothing. But the last two nights, we had multiple turtles come ashore that allowed us to deploy the final two transmitters in one night.”
The telemetry devices, which transmit signals to orbiting satellites each time a turtle comes to the surface to breathe, allow scientists to monitor the migratory movements and diving behavior of sea turtles, including the five leatherbacks tagged at Chiriquí Beach.
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Sea life in peril -- plankton vanishing
Usual seasonal influx of cold water isn't happening

July 12, 2005 (SF Chronicle – by Glen Martin)
Oceanic plankton have largely disappeared from the waters off Northern California, Oregon and Washington, mystifying scientists, stressing fisheries and causing widespread seabird mortality.
The phenomenon could have long-term implications if it continues: a general decline in near-shore oceanic life, with far fewer fish, birds and marine mammals. No one is certain how long the condition will last. But even a short duration could severely affect seabird populations because of drastically reduced nesting success, scientists say.
The plankton disappearance is caused by a slackening of what is known as "upwelling:" the seasonal movement of cold, nutrient-rich offshore water into areas near shore.
This cold water sustains vast quantities of phytoplankton and zooplankton, which are the basis of the marine food web. During periods of vigorous upwelling and consequent plankton "blooms," everything from salmon to blue whales fattens and thrives on the continental shelf of the West Coast.
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Working to Bring Back the Coaster Brook Trout
July 11, 2005 (AP — By John Flesher)
PICTURED ROCKS NATIONAL LAKESHORE, Mich. — Barely noticeable beneath a wooden foot bridge, the wire antenna stretched across the gurgling Mosquito River is on the lookout for one of the Great Lakes' most mysterious fish: the coaster brook trout.
A century and a half ago, portions of the Lake Superior shoreline teemed with coasters -- brook trout that, for reasons still unknown, migrate into the big lake instead of remaining in tributary streams with other members of their species.
But word of Superior's bountiful trout fishery spread, eventually drawing hordes of anglers. People were particularly dazzled by the coasters' large size, tasty flesh and distinctive orange-reddish or yellowish undersides.
By the turn of the century, overfishing and habitat degradation sent the coaster into a tailspin from which it has yet to recover. Today, only scattered pockets remain in Lake Superior. Occasional sightings are reported in northern sections of Lake Huron and Lake Michigan, although scientists say they're unconfirmed.
But more than two dozen government agencies, conservation groups and Indian tribes in the United States and Canada are working to bring back the coaster brook trout.
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Tribes, fishermen, conservationists returning to Scotland to argue against dams
July 11, 2005 (AP - By JEFF BARNARD)
Grants Pass, Ore. -- Representatives of Indian tribes, commercial fishermen and conservationists are returning to Scotland to try to build pressure on PacifiCorp's parent company to give salmon a way over dams on the Klamath River before selling the utility.
A delegation of about 20 people representing the Yurok, Hoopa, Karuk and Klamath tribes, the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations and Friends of the River will reach out to stockholders, investment groups and executives of Scottish Power at the company's annual meeting July 22 in Glasgow, Scotland. They made a similar trek to the annual meeting last year in Edinburgh.
Scottish Power has agreed to sell PacifiCorp to MidAmerican Energy, a utility controlled by Warren Buffett through his investment company Berkshire Hathaway, for $5.1 billion, plus the assumption of $4.3 billion in debt.
PacifiCorp's application for a new operating license for the four dams, which produce about 150 kilowatts of power, does not include any provision for salmon passage, which has been blocked since construction began in 1908.
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Humming fish solves noisy clash
Turning down ear sensitivity could help humans retain their hearing.

11 July, 2005 (Nature – by Andreas von Bubnoff)
A strange kind of humming fish has evolved a clever way to avoid deafening itself with its own noise, researchers have found. They say the same mechanism could be at work in other animals, including humans, helping to tone down the senses and avoid overpowering them with self-generated signals.
Andrew Bass, a neuroscientist with a name amply suited to studying both fish and acoustics, looked at the male plainfin midshipman fish (Porichthys notatus) to study this effect. These 25-centimetre-long fish live off the west coast of the United States from California to Alaska. During summer nights, they hum to attract females and encourage them to lay their eggs. The hum, described by some as similar to the chanting of monks, is so loud that houseboat owners near San Francisco have sometimes complained of their homes vibrating at night.
Bass and his fellow authors have shown that the brains of these fish regulate their hearing so that they are not deafened and can hear predators or incoming females even while humming.
The fish control both sound and hearing through nerve impulses from the same part of the brain. Some impulses signal to muscles around the swim bladder, which is the fish's buoyancy organ, making it generate sound by vibrating. The same area of the brain sends signals to inhibit the sensitivity of the ear's hair cells, which translate sound into electrical signals that the brain can understand.
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Iceland Tells Japan Cooperation on Commercial Whaling Possible
July 11, 2005 (AP)
TOKYO — Iceland told fellow pro-whaling ally Japan Monday that it might be possible to cooperate on commercial whaling, officials said.
At present, Japan and Iceland kill a limited number of whales annually for research purposes despite staunch opposition from anti-whaling nations like the United States and Australia, which call such hunts unnecessary and a threat to conservation efforts. "If we begin commercial whaling in the future, I think there will be ways to cooperate with Japan," Icelandic Prime Minister Halldor Asgrimsson told his Japanese counterpart Junichiro Koizumi Monday.
Asgrimsson did not elaborate on what kind of cooperation he envisioned, a Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman said.
Koizumi told Asgrimsson that "it is encouraging that Japan and Iceland are cooperating internationally on whaling."
Japan and Iceland had unsuccessfully pushed to overturn a 1986 ban on commercial whale hunts during the International Whaling Commission's annual meeting last month in South Korea.
Japan announced at the meeting that it plans to more than double its annual research hunts. It currently catches 440 minke whales in the Antarctic Ocean and 210 others in coastal waters in the northwestern Pacific.
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