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.


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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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."
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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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