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 August 1 - 7, 2005

Alaskan people tell of climate change
August 7, 2005 (BBC Radio - By Kate Bissell)
For the past 20 years climatologists and ice and atmosphere scientists have been working in Alaska studying climate change.
Now they have discovered a rich new source of records extending their knowledge back by decades through the oral history of native Alaskans.
Barrow is the most northerly town in the United States, lying 300 miles inside the Arctic Circle.
And 92-year-old Bertha Leavitt is its oldest inhabitant.
"When I was a child", she says, "it was so much colder and the winds in winter used to be fierce." She remembers her elders telling in their stories that the weather was going to change. And since her childhood she believes this has come true.
In a land where not just the rivers but also the sea freezes over, it is impossible not to be aware of the seasons.
The ice in the arctic is getting much thinner, locals say
Barrow whaling captain Percy Nusunginya has particular reason to be alert to change. Each autumn and spring his crew ventures out on the ice to fish at air holes. He says that working out on the Arctic Sea has become very dangerous.
"Nowadays ice conditions are thinner than in the 1970s and 80s. The ice used to be 20 to 30 feet thick but now it is more like 10 feet thick. But what can we do? Sometimes I feel sad but we just have to go with what we have got.
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How whaling ban made life hard for hungry orcas
August 6, 2005 (New Scientist)
IT SAVED the whales, but the ban on commercial whaling may have inadvertently jeopardised the future of other sea mammals such as otters and seals.
Researchers suggest the ban has forced some killer whales to change their eating habits, with unexpected effects. Orcas feed on a range of sea mammals, but for hundreds of years had easy pickings in the carcasses of harpooned whales tied to the sides of whaling boats. When that went, however, orcas might have shifted their focus to smaller mammals.
Randall Reeves at Okapi Wildlife Associates in Hudson, Canada, and Hal Whitehead at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada, searched through historical literature and ship logbooks dating back to the 1700s.
They uncovered ample evidence of killer whales eating caught baleen whales - especially the tongue, a killer whale "delicacy". They also calculated the live whale biomass available for killer whales to eat throughout the 20th century, and the amount of whale carcasses.
Large whale carcasses from hunting fell from more than 60,000 per year to almost none during the 1970s. Since then, stellar sea lion populations in the Aleutian Islands off Alaska crashed and northern sea otter populations declined, suggesting that killer whales had turned to smaller sea mammals (Biology Letters, DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2005.0348).
From issue 2511 of New Scientist magazine, 06 August 2005, page 17
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Ban on long-line commercial fishing may be lifted
Restyled hook won't spare sea turtles, opponents contend
August 5, 2005 (SF Chronicle - Glen Martin)
CALIFORNIA - Marine conservationists say the West Coast's last sea turtles could be wiped out if federal agencies decide to overturn a ban on long-lining, a form of commercial fishing that has killed hundreds of thousands of turtles over the past 20 years.
The National Marine Fisheries Service, a subsidiary agency of the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration, banned long-lining for swordfish off the California coast in 2004 after concluding the practice was destroying sea turtles -- especially leatherbacks, huge marine reptiles sometimes exceeding a ton in weight.
By some estimates, Pacific leatherbacks -- which lay their eggs on beaches in Southeast Asia but frequently migrate through California's offshore waters -- have declined by 95 percent since 1980.
But the Pacific Fishery Management Council, which sets policies on commercial fishing in federal waters, is pondering a proposal by long-line advocates to overturn the ban. Any recommendation the council makes will be referred to the fisheries service, which will make the final decision.
Long-lining involves setting out thousands of baited hooks attached to a single line over miles of ocean. It is a highly effective way to catch large pelagic fish.
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Shuttle Commander Sees Wide Environmental Damage
August 5, 2005 (Reuters — By Jeff Franks)
HOUSTON — Commander Eileen Collins said astronauts on shuttle Discovery had seen widespread environmental destruction on Earth and warned Thursday that greater care was needed to protect natural resources.
Her comments came as NASA pondered whether to send astronauts out on an extra spacewalk to repair additional heat-protection damage on the first shuttle mission since the 200 3 Columbia disaster.
Discovery is linked with the International Space Station and orbiting 220 miles above the Earth.
"Sometimes you can see how there is erosion, and you can see how there is deforestation. It's very widespread in some parts of the world," Collins said in a conversation from space with Japanese officials in Tokyo, including Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.
"We would like to see, from the astronauts' point of view, people take good care of the Earth and replace the resources that have been used," said Collins, who was standing with Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi in front of a Japanese flag and holding a colorful fan.
Collins, making her fourth shuttle flight, said the view from space made clear that Earth's atmosphere must be protected, too.
"The atmosphere almost looks like an eggshell on an egg, it's so very thin," she said. "We know that we don't have much air, we need to protect what we have."
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Giant Ocean Waves More Common Than Thought
August 5, 2005 (AP — By Randolph E. Schmid)
WASHINGTON — Last year's Hurricane Ivan generated an ocean wave that towered higher than 90 feet at one point, says a study that also suggests such giants may be more common than once thought.
Research indicates these are not "rogue waves but actually fairly common during hurricanes," said David Wang of the Naval Research Laboratory at Stennis Space Center, Miss.
The giant wave was detected 75 miles south of Gulfport, Miss., by instruments on the ocean floor that measure the pressure of water above them. Using those readings, scientists can calculate the height of waves from trough to crest.
Last Sept. 15, as Hurricane Ivan passed through the area, the instruments measured 146 large waves, including 24 higher than 50 feet and one at 91 feet, Wang and his colleagues report in Friday's issue of the journal Science.
The giant wave did not reach land. Unlike a tsunami, which reaches down to the sea floor, this was a wind wave, generated on the ocean surface by the powerful forces of the storm.
Because shipping tends to try to avoid hurricanes, many large waves are unseen by humans, let alone measured.
Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have a different way of calculating wave heights, using buoys at sea.
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Hybrid Cars Coming Soon to California Car Pool Lanes
August 5, 2005 (AP — By Tim Molloy)
LOS ANGELES — Hybrid car owners are fast approaching the day when they will be allowed to drive solo in California's car pool lanes.
State lawmakers passed a bill last year that gave some types of the high-mileage, low-emission vehicles access to the coveted lanes -- a privilege meant to encourage drivers to buy the environmentally friendly cars.
California's law was supposed to take effect Jan. 1 but first needed approval from the federal government. That permission was tucked into a $286 billion transportation bill Congress passed last week, meaning there is just one last strand of red tape keeping hybrids out of the high-occupancy vehicle lanes: State air regulators need to clarify which vehicles meet the mileage and emissions standards.
The policy's supporters hope hybrids will be allowed in the car pool lanes by year's end.
"Knowing that you're able to drive in that car pool lane would be huge, and I think it would attract others to say, `Hey, I should have a car like this as well,'" said Andrew Werts, a 31-year-old marketing director from Redondo Beach who recently sold his SUV and bought a Toyota Prius.
Only two other models -- Honda's hybrid Civic and Insight -- meet the eligibility standards of at least 45 miles per gallon and almost no smog-causing emissions, according to an aide to the author of California's bill, Assemblywoman Fran Pavley, a Democrat.
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Orca Collision with Whale Watch Boat Hushed Up
August 5, 2005 (ENS)
SEATTLE, Washington - On July 3, 2005 an orca whale was injured in an accident with a whale watching boat in the San Juan Islands of Washington state. Mark Anderson, founder and president of the Orca Relief Citizens' Alliance (ORCA), says the incident has been "kept quiet" by the Whale Watch Operators Association Northwest and the National Marine Fisheries Service.
"No one knows the extent of injury sustained by the orca, no one knows which member of the southern residents it was, or why the orca rammed a whale watching boat," Anderson wrote in Thursday's issue of the "San Juan Islander" newspaper.
"We DO know the whales were feeding at the time, that about 40 boats were surrounding the whales and that the Canadian-based boat that was hit had already been cited once that day by Mark Pakenham of M3, the enforcement division from Fisheries and Oceans Canada," Anderson wrote.
Ander says the accident illustrates the inherent negative consequences of boat/whale interactions and the need for change to protect the Southern Resident orcas of Washington state.
Orca Relief Citizens' Alliance urges that whale watching boats stop "leapfrogging and parking (situating) boats in the whales' path."
Boats should stay a minimum of 400 yards away from the closest whale, says Anderson, and must not position themselves between whales and the shore.
Since 1995, the southern resident population of orcas has declined nearly 20 percent. During that same period, the number of motorized whale-watching boats in the area has soared, reaching up to as many as 140 boats in a single day.
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Grounded Vessel Pulled off Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Reef
August 5, 2005 (ENS)
HONOLULU, Hawaii - The 145 foot motor vessel Casitas, which ran aground at Pearl and Hermes Atoll last month, has been extracted from the reef and "entombed" northwest of the atoll in approximately 7,200 feet of water, the Unified Command announced Thursday. The boat was under contract to remove marine debris from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands when it ran aground at 2 am on July 2.
“On behalf of all the parties involved, we are very pleased to see this operation safely completed,” said U.S. Coast Guard Captain Manson Brown, federal on-scene coordinator for the Unified Command.
Pearl and Hermes Atoll, located 86 miles east southeast of Midway, is part of the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge and is an important seabird and green sea turtle nesting ground, Hawaiian monk seal pupping site, home to endangered Laysan finches, and the site of more than 183,000 acres of coral reefs in Refuge and State of Hawaii waters.
The Unified Command wanted to remove the vessel from the reef as quickly as possible, saying, "Metallic debris promotes the growth of invasive algae species that can have devastating impacts on the coral reef community."
Some 35 team members worked aboard the tugs American Contender, American Quest, and American Emerald; a 240-foot barge; and the motor vessel Condor to deal with the wreck.
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No Trouble Removing Oil From Water
August 5, 2005 (Research Australia)
A simple tank-and-siphon system for removing oil from oily water and protecting the environment is about to be launched internationally by an engineering team from the University of New South Wales.
The Extended Gravity Oil Water Separation (EGOWS) concept is an improvement on the industry-standard American Petroleum Institute (API) gravity separator that has been widely used for the last 60 years.
The API separator, originally designed for oil refineries, is not designed to reduce the oil content of water below about 100 parts per million and is not suitable for releasing water directly to the environment.
Regulatory requirements for the release of oil-contaminated water to the environment are becoming stricter worldwide. It is common for environmental protection authorities to impose a limit of 10 parts of oil per million of effluent water, and increasingly for there to be no visible sheen on the receiving water.
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Turtle found dead in fishing nets
August 5, 2005 (BBC)
A rare leatherback turtle has been found dead off the coast of Cornwall.
It was spotted by a helicopter crew which was carrying out a survey for RNAS Culdrose.
The turtle, which is among the largest reptiles in the world, is thought to have been caught in lobster pot buoy ropes off Botallack, near Lands End.
It was towed to shore at Cape Cornwall by the Sennen Inshore Lifeboat where it took a team of volunteers to lift the 6ft (1.83m) beast.
The leatherback has been taken to Truro to be examined by scientists.
Dave Jarvis, of the British Divers Marine Life Rescue team, was one of the team of volunteers who helped bring the turtle ashore.
He said: "We're not entirely sure it was killed in the fishing gear - it had obviously been dead for some time."
Peter Richardson from the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) said although leatherbacks are rare, July and August are the months they are most likely to be seen in UK waters.
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IFAW Partners with Zodiac Group to Protect Marine Wildlife
August 5, 2005 — By International Fund for Animal Welfare
YARMOUTH PORT, MA — The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW at www.ifaw.org) and the Zodiac Group today announced that Zodiac will donate cash and equipment to help IFAW protect marine wildlife. The announcement was made at the 8th International Effects of Oil on Wildlife Conference in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada.
“The support we have received from Zodiac has been invaluable in our efforts to save hundreds of oiled seabirds throughout the world and to protect endangered whales. We are gratified by Zodiac’s commitment as a pioneering, responsible company dedicated to actively protecting the environment,” said Dr. Ian Robinson, IFAW director of Emergency Relief.
The equipment donated by Zodiac includes six transportable pools used to clean birds at oils spills. Also included is a Zodiac inflatable boat that will be used to study Gray whale populations near Russia’s Sakhalin Islands. Zodiac will also support the creation of a training video for whale watching boats and the work of two interns onboard IFAW’s research vessel, Song of the Whale.
IFAW and Zodiac have worked together in recent years helping to clean, treat and release hundreds of oiled seabirds at incidents in Norway and Germany.
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Official Says Pelican Exodus Not Alarming
August 4, 2005 (AP — By James MacPherson)
CHASE LAKE NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE, N.D. — A top federal wildlife official says the pelican mystery at the Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge may be a natural correction.
William Hartwig, the chief of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Refuge System, got a tour of the refuge near Medina in central North Dakota on Wednesday, with Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D.
Nearly 30,000 white pelicans abandoned the refuge last year, leaving eggs and chicks behind. This year, refuge officials estimated about 8,000 young white pelicans died during the spring and early summer nesting period, and more adults left.
"I'm concerned but I'm not alarmed," Hartwig said.
Dorgan and Hartwig peered through spotting scopes at the remaining pelicans and got briefings from Dave Bolin, a manager at the refuge, and Marsha Sovada, a biologist at the U.S. Geological Survey's Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center in Jamestown.
Sovada said Wednesday that about 280 chicks remain at the 4,385-acre refuge, and the adult population has dropped to about 600.
Hartwig said pelicans typically have "more bad years than good years" in their natural reproductive process.
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New York Authorities Battle Intruding Snakehead Fish
August 4, 2005 (Reuters)
NEW YORK — The snakehead fish, a voracious predator from Asia, has taken up residence in a lake in New York, and experts are mulling options, including salt and poison, to evict it.
Snakeheads, which can grow to about three feet long , have the capacity to ravage the local fish population.
This is the first time these fish have surfaced in New York State and environmentalists are racing against the clock to prevent them multiplying in lakes and rivers, as has occurred in some other U.S. states.
Experts are unsure whether the fish are breeding but want to stop them before they do.
The snakehead was found at Meadow Lake in the New York borough of Queens. "We know there are more in there. We have captured five (in July) and we saw another four or five adults," Jim Gilmore, of the Department of Environmental Conservation's New York City office, said Wednesday.
While individual snakeheads can be netted, the most sweeping option to eradicate them is to poison the lake, as was done in Maryland several years ago.
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Endangered Fish Could Repopulate Rio Grande
August 4, 2005 (ENS)
ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico - It has been more than 50 years since the endangered Rio Grande silvery minnow inhabited the Rio Grande in the Big Bend region.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with the people of Texas to determine if reintroducing the silvery minnow to this reach of the river holds potential for improving the species' future.
The Endangered Species Act encourages experimental reintroductions as a way to help recover a species while keeping federal regulations to a minimum.
"We believe the long-term survival and recovery of this species can be better secured by establishing experimental populations under section 10(j) of the Endangered Species Act within the fish's historical range," said Larry Bell, acting deputy director of the Service's Southwest Region.
"Under this scenario, we have much more flexibility in working with the community to manage experimental populations so that current and future land or water uses and activities should not be restricted while helping to recover the fish," Bell said.
Once one of the most abundant and widespread fishes in the Rio Grande Basin from northern New Mexico to the Gulf of Mexico, in the 1950s, it was the most common fish in the Big Bend stretch of the Rio Grande. Now the silvery minnows are gone from Texas and only occur in central New Mexico.
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Californian beach boasts world’s pickiest females
August 4, 2005 (NewScientist.com – by Gaia Vince)
US scientists believe they may have found the pickiest females in the world. And size does matter – when it comes to the creature’s abode – a new study suggests.
Californian fiddler crab females often check out more than 100 males – even inspecting the hapless side-crawlers’ bachelor pads – before selecting their mate, according to Catherine deRivera, at the University of California in San Diego, US. “Most animals sample just a few mates, presumably because search costs override the benefits of lengthy searches,” she says.
During seduction, the male fiddler crab stands at the entrance of his waterfront burrow and with a “come hither” wave beckons the female over. Interested females eye up the males and if they like what they see, partially or fully enter their potential den of iniquity to size it up.
Once she has picked her male, the female crab enters his home and plugs the hole to his burrow. Once comfy, the crabs will mate and incubate their eggs, which later hatch to be flushed from the estuary by the tides.
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Endangered Turtles May Lose Protections on West Coast; Fisheries Council Sub-Groups to Propose Gutting Rules Limiting Deadly Fishing Technologies
August 2, 2005 (Sea Turtle Restoration Project)
Forest Knolls, CA — On August 3-5, two sub-groups of the Pacific Fisheries Management Council, which is responsible for managing fisheries off the coasts of California, Oregon and Washington, will be considering controversial proposals to gut rules to protect endangered species. Most at risk is the Pacific leatherback sea turtle, the largest turtle in the world. Environmentalists are rallying to the defense of the existing rules which have been seen as an international model for protecting marine ecosystems.
In response to lawsuits by environmentalists, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency Fisheries agency banned longline fishing on the West Coast and restricted gillnets, also known as "curtains of death," to protect endangered sea turtles and other marine species. On August 3-5, the Pacific Fishery Management Council's Highly Migratory Species Management Team and Highly Migratory Species Advisory Subpanel will be considering proposals to reverse or weaken these rules, in turn putting these species - some of which teeter on the brink of extinction - at greater risk of being injured or killed.
Most at risk is the critically endangered leatherback sea turtle. Estimated to be 100 million years old, scientists now warn that it could go extinct in the Pacific in the next 5 to 30 years unless efforts are made to reduce the threat of being injured or killed by longlines and gillnets. The number of female nesting Pacific leatherbacks has declined by 95 percent since 1984. The U.S. Pacific coast is an important migratory route and foraging area for leatherback sea turtles.
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Young Entangled Humpback Whale Cut Free in Alaska
August 3, 2005 (ENS)
KODIAK, Alaska - A team of researchers from University of Alaska-Fairbanks successfully released a young humpback whale that had become entangled in commercial crab fishing lines and buoys in waters near Kodiak last week.
The whale was one or two years old and about 20 feet long, according to Kate Wynne, a marine mammal specialist with the UAF Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program based in Kodiak.
Wynne is among the few individuals in the state authorized by the National Marine Fisheries Service to disentangle marine mammals. Wynne led seven other researchers in the rescue effort.
“The whale was thin and near complete exhaustion when we arrived at the scene,” said Wynne. “The young whale was nearly immobilized by lines, the crab pot, and buoys and it is likely the whale would not have survived through the night without intervention.”
The team used three small boats and specialized disentanglement poles and knives to cut at least four lines that had ensnared the whale’s pectoral fins and flukes.
“It appeared that one line may have gone from his flukes forward along his right side, over his lower lip and back to his left pectoral fin, and then to his fluke, essentially hog-tying him,” said Wynne. “To surface for air, it had to do a sort of stomach-crunch, flexing enough so the buoys attached at his flukes submerged when his head was up. It had to have been quite a work out for the little guy.”
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Survey Finds Gulf 'Dead Zone' Much Larger
August 2, 2005 (AP)
NEW ORLEANS — The dead zone off the coasts of Louisiana and Texas is nearly the size of Connecticut and much larger than federal researchers had predicted earlier this year, according to a new survey.
An annual weeklong cruise led by researchers with the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium found an area of low-oxygen measuring 4,564 square miles and extending from the Mississippi River to the Texas border. On average, the dead zone has measured about 4,800 square miles since 1985.
The dead zone, also known as hypoxia, forms each spring and summer as fresh water enters the Gulf of Mexico and causes large algae blooms. The algae die and sink to the bottom of the Gulf, where they decompose, using up oxygen in the deeper, saltier water. Fish avoid the low-oxygen water, and bottom-living organisms are killed.
The dead zone could in the long-term affect the overall health of the Gulf's marine species, said Nancy Rabalais, a leading hypoxia researcher with the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium. She said researchers are studying how the dead zone affects the growth and reproduction of marine species.
The dead zone could grow much larger this year -- perhaps as large as 6,200 square miles -- if major storms do not stir up the Gulf in the coming months, Rabalais said.
Officials are looking for ways to cut down on the amount of fertilizer and pollution in watersheds that flow into the Mississippi and end up in the Gulf.
[read more]

Scientists are Seeing More Dead Birds, Fewer Fish on the Pacific Coast
August 2, 2005 (AP)
SAN FRANCISCO — Marine biologists are seeing mysterious and disturbing things along the Pacific Coast this year: higher water temperatures, plummeting catches of fish, lots of dead birds on the beaches, and perhaps most worrisome, very little plankton -- the tiny organisms that are a vital link in the ocean food chain.
Is this just one freak year? Or is this global warming?
Few scientists are willing to blame global warming, the theory that carbon dioxide and other manmade emissions are trapping heat in the Earth's atmosphere and causing a worldwide rise in temperatures. Yet few are willing to rule it out.
"There are strange things happening, but we don't really understand how all the pieces fit together," said Jane Lubchenco, a zoologist and climate change expert at Oregon State University. "It's hard to say whether any single event is just an anomaly or a real indication of something serious happening."
Scientists say things could very well swing back to normal next year. But if the phenomenon proves to be long-lasting, the consequences could be serious for birds, fish and other wildlife.
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Researchers Say Arctic Teeming With Life
August 2, 2005 (AP)
VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Beneath its ice, the Arctic Ocean is teeming with life, says a team of international scientists that just completed a 30-day expedition to the northern ocean.
In the months and years ahead, the 45 scientists from the U.S., Canada, China and Russia that took part in the Hidden Ocean expedition will pore over thousands of photographs, ice samples and ocean specimens collected in the Canada Basin.
"We were surprised. There was an awful lot more life up here than what people expected and believe there is," said Russ Hopcroft, a Canadian researcher and assistant professor at the Institute of Marine Science at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks.
Hopcroft said most scientists found new species or, at least, species not previously believed to exist in the Arctic.
Despite the region's inhospitable climate for humans, the northern ocean is home to many life forms, including viruses, bacteria, fungi, and unicellular and multicellular plants and animals.
From the shelter of the U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker Healy, teams of scientists explored the ice surface, beneath it and the ocean floor.
They ventured as far as latitude 76 degrees north in the basin, the deepest part of the Arctic Ocean, located north of Alaska and the Yukon Territory.
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Bum beaches
August 2, 2005 (SF Chronicle EDITORIAL)
DON'T GO near the water. That's the message that windsurfers, swimmers and toe-dipping strollers are spotting more often at San Francisco's most popular beaches.
It's part of a mixed picture on California's coastline. In Los Angeles and here, stay-away advisories increased sharply last year, while in other heavily used areas in Southern California, the numbers are down slightly.
Inadequate sewer systems, storm runoff and construction work contribute to bacteria-causing conditions. San Francisco posted 162 closings and warnings in 2004, a jump of 35 percent from the prior year. On these days, unhealthy levels of bacteria were found at a string of six beaches from Fort Funston on the ocean to Candlestick Point in the bay.
There's good and bad in the findings, compiled by the National Resources Defense Council, an environmental watchdog group. Because counties up and down the coast are testing more, they are documenting more problems. Continued sampling by health officers should isolate the problem spots for better scrutiny.
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Marine Mammal Center Opens New California Coastal Facility
August 1, 2005 (ENS)
SAUSALITO, California - The Marine Mammal Center will hold a ribbon cutting ceremony on Thursday to celebrate the opening of its new field triage office site in Morro Bay.
The site, located on Duke Energy land, includes a new building which will contain offices, a food preparation area, medical room and six fenced pens to temporarily house animal patients.
The much-needed facilities in Morro Bay will help area volunteers quickly treat minor seal and otter injuries and ailments on site and provide temporary recuperation housing for animals.
“The opening of this field office is a dream come true and will allow us to quickly and efficiently rescue and treat even more marine mammals that strand along the central coast,” said B.J. Griffin, executive director of The Marine Mammal Center.
The field office will be located on two acres of land on the southeast corner of the Duke power plant facility in Morro Bay. Duke is leasing the parcel to The Center for $1 for the next 20 years. Duke provides The Center with a similar in-kind donation for a field office at its power plant in Moss Landing.
“We’re extremely happy that we can provide the land that will become the launch pad of operations for The Marine Mammal Center to continue to rescue seals and sea lions here on the central coast,” said Randy Hickok, vice president for Duke Energy. “This is an important initiative and represents a significant opportunity for us to further our eight year relationship with The Center.”
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Did Bottom Trawling Help Cause Collapse of Alaska King Crab? New Paper Says It Did
August, 2005 (SeaWeb)
In the early 1980s, the king crab population in Alaska’s Bristol Bay plummeted precipitously. A prevalent theory—according to environmentalists, one endorsed and promulgated by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS)—was that natural factors, such as climatic changes, were responsible. That has now been seriously challenged by a paper in the journal Ecological Applications. The paper, by NMFS scientists Braxton Dew and Robert McConnaughey, argues instead that intensive bottom trawling in a previously protected area, beginning in the mid-to-late 1970s, was significantly responsible.
The largest population of king crab in the world resides off the west coast of Kamchatka in the Sea of Okhotsk. The second largest is in Bristol Bay. Dew and McConnaughey point out that one of the reasons for the success of both populations is the so-called “endless belt” reproductive strategy, which requires a broad coastal shelf and a longshore current; a critical factor in the success of this endless belt strategy is the location, near the upcurrent end of the shelf, of the brood stock of reproductive females, which release their eggs into the current. The location of this reproductive center in Bristol Bay was determined by Japanese researchers in the 1950s, and as a result, the Japanese government in 1959 introduced a ban on its fishermen trawling an area of Bristol Bay known as the Pot Sanctuary. Because Japan was the only nation trawling in the eastern Bering Sea at that time, the ban effectively eliminated trawling from the Pot Sanctuary area. As U.S. trawling fleets began entering the fishery during the 1960s, bilateral agreements were negotiated between the United States and Japan, and separately between the United States and the USSR, with a goal to reinforcing the Japanese ban on trawling in the Pot Sanctuary.
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Pacific Council Adopts Expansive Marine Habitat Protection Measures; Environmentalists Applaud
August, 2005 (SeaWeb)
The Pacific Fishery Management Council adopted expansive closures to commercial bottom trawl fishing at a meeting in June. The decision will protect about 200,000 square nautical miles of marine habitat on the West Coast between the Canadian and Mexican borders, amounting to over 75% of the ocean within United States jurisdiction off the coast of Washington, Oregon, and California.
The Council action, taken to protect the habitat of over 80 species of groundfish, was applauded by both environmental conservation organizations and fishing industry groups. Jim Ayers, Fisheries Conservation Director for Oceana, stated that the action would “not only make things better for those dependent on current fisheries, but also provides security for future generations, as well. We have worked hard on this proposal for over five years, and this decision makes the money and time spent well worth it.” Brad Pettinger, Executive Director of the Oregon Trawl Commission, said that: “The fishing industry and the coastal communities want to do what is necessary to protect the habitat and fish stocks for the long run. We have more at stake in this than anyone.”
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Environmentalists Challenge Proposed Fishery “Rollbacks”
August, 2005 (SeaWeb)
Environmentalists have strongly challenged a series of proposals by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to change elements of the standards laid down for fisheries management under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. The possibility of such changes was first aired by NMFS in 2003, when it proposed alterations to, among other things, “calculation of the maximum permissible rebuilding times for overfished fisheries,” and “the definitions of overfishing as they relate to a fishery as a whole, or a stock within that fishery.” Then in June of this year, NOAA published a formal rulemaking change proposal, which is the subject of public comment until August 22 (with a possible extension until September 22).
Lee Crockett, executive director of the Marine Fish Conservation Network (MFCN), branded the proposals “a giant step backward in our nation’s endeavor to rebuild our struggling marine fish populations and restore the health of our oceans.”
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Scientists Review History, Trends of World Fisheries
August, 2005 (SeaWeb)
“Many lay people believe that widespread ‘pollution’ endangers ocean life, perhaps a lingering impact of books such as ‘The sea around us’, and the pronouncements of Jacques Cousteau. Fisheries, by contrast, have long been seen as benign, and their growth not related to the decline of their target species, which is usually attributed to ‘environmental change’ or some form of ‘pollution’.”
So begins a paper in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, by Daniel Pauly, Reg Watson, and Jackie Alder of the University of British Columbia’s Fisheries Center. The authors ask, “Why is it that commercial fishing, which, after all, is devoted to killing fishes and removing them from their habitat so we can eat them, has so generally been perceived as having little, if any, impact on the populations that were being fished?” They propose that the reason “has to do with notions from another age, when fishing was indeed a matter of wrestling one’s sustenance from a foreign, hostile sea, and from tiny boats, close to one’s village, using equipment barely capable of making a dent in the huge populations of fish known to inhabit the ocean’s unfathomable depths.” That image, they suspect, is still prevalent, even though the commercial fisheries industry is now a giant enterprise which “is having so severe an impact on its own resources base that, if present trends continue, it will collapse in the next decades, and drag down with it, into oblivion, many of the fishes it exploits, together with their supporting ecosystems.”
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Aquarius: An Undersea Laboratory Where Scientist Can Live for Weeks at a Time
July 28, 2005 (VOA News - By Zulima Palacio)
Florida Keys, Florida - It is not a wreck or something from outer space. Its name is Aquarius, and it sits at 20 meters below surface, next to the coral reefs in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. It is the only undersea laboratory in the world where scientists and NASA astronauts can live for up to two weeks at the time.
Otto Rutten, is the Associate Director of the National Undersea Research Center. “Aquarius is designed to facilitate undersea research, coral reef research specifically," said Mr. Rutten, "to allow scientists to greatly extend the amount of bottom time that they have by utilizing a technique called saturation diving, so they can get from eight to nine hours a day at depths up to [36 meters].”
People cannot work for long at great depths underwater if they have to dive and return to the surface in one trip: much of the time has to be spent decompressing while on the way up, to get rid of the nitrogen that builds up in the body while it is subjected to the extra atmospheric pressure of deep water.
Staying in deep water is the solution; Aquarius is the way to do it. The only way to get to it is by diving, and its main "door" is called "the wet porch". Once inside, you can get rid of your diving equipment, take a fresh shower, get dry, and move in. Aquarius is only 13 meters long by 3 meters in diameter, and can accommodate a maximum of six people at the time.
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