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 29 - September 4, 2005

News Review for Week August 29 - September 4, 2005
Compiled by November Tan, Intern
Edited by Holly S. Lohuis
Ocean Futures Society

Giant turtle is spotted off coast
September 4, 2005 (BBC)
Conservation experts say the discovery of a leatherback turtle in the North Sea is exciting and significant.
Eyewitnesses have reported seeing a six-foot creature swimming 100 metres off the Norfolk/Suffolk coast.
Peter Richardson, from the Marine Conservation Society, said the species was the largest turtle in the world.
"It travels to British waters in summer to feed on jelly fish but is normally seen on the west side near the Atlantic so is an exciting find this far east."
Some experts believe that the more frequent sighting of the leatherback turtle is the result of global warming.

Blue shark sighted near the coast
September 2, 2005 (BBC)
A blue shark has become the latest shark to be spotted off the Cornish coast this summer.
Members of the Mounts Bay Pilot Gig Rowing Club said they saw a 7ft long blue shark swim under their boat as they practised near Penzance.
It is the latest in a series of apparent shark sightings off the Cornish coast this summer.
A marine expert said that blue sharks have been known to attack humans, but never in British waters.
Richard Pierce, chairman of the Plymouth-based Shark Trust, said: "Blue sharks have been here for millions of years. They are summer visitors.
"Sadly they are becoming unusual. The rate at which we are killing them off means that sooner or later we won't be seeing them."

Ozone layer making a recovery
Scientists caution it could take decades to restore
September 2, 2005 (CNN - By Marsha Walton)
ATLANTA, Georgia -- Earth's ozone layer, which protects both humans and plant life from ultraviolet radiation from the sun, appears to be recovering.
A study just published by the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences shows declining ozone levels have leveled off from 1996 to 2002, and in some areas there even are small increases.
But scientists are cautious about the apparent recovery of the ozone layer, which they say has been thinning for many years because of the widespread use of several industrial chemicals.
"We will absolutely have to monitor for at least another decade before we can be confident," said Betsy Weatherhead, one of the researchers on the study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

German Conservative Links Katrina to U.S. CO2 Policy
September 2, 2005 (Reuters)
BERLIN — A German conservative policymaker said on Thursday climate change had played a role in Hurricane Katrina and urged the U.S. to join other nations in cutting the carbon dioxide emissions blamed for global warming.
Gerda Hasselfeldt, a leading candidate to become environment minister if the conservative opposition wins next month's election, was asked in an interview with n-tv television if climate change had contributed to the devastation wrought by the storm on the U.S. Gulf Coast in which thousands may have died.
"That is the case," she replied, adding that there should be better coordination at the global level to achieve a further reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.
"The U.S. must be more involved. But we will not achieve that through insults," Hasselfeldt said.
The White House has shunned the Kyoto Protocol, a global agreement adopted by more than 150 countries, which aims to reduce the emission of so-called greenhouse gases. U.S. President George W. Bush pulled the United States out of Kyoto and has said it would have "wrecked" the economy.
The United States is the world's biggest carbon dioxide emitter and wants emissions cuts to be voluntary. Last month the United States joined other countries including Japan, China and India in a pact which focused on technology sharing without set targets.

Clever Whale Uses Fish to Catch Seagulls
September 2, 2005 (AP)
NIAGARA FALLS, Ontario — An enterprising young killer whale at Marineland has figured out how to use fish as bait to catch seagulls -- and shared his strategy with his fellow whales.
Michael Noonan, a professor of animal behavior at Canisius College in Buffalo, N.Y., made the discovery by accident while studying orca acoustics.
"One day I noticed one of the young whales appeared to have come up with a procedure for luring gulls down to the pool," the professor said. "I found it interesting so I noted it in my log."
First, the young whale spit regurgitated fish onto the surface of the water, then sank below the water and waited.
If a hungry gull landed on the water, the whale would surge up to the surface, sometimes catching a free meal of his own.
Noonan watched as the same whale set the same trap again and again.
Within a few months, the whale's younger half brother adopted the practice. Eventually the behavior spread and now five Marineland whales supplement their diet with fresh fowl, the scientist said.

Endangered Hawaiian Monk Seal Gives Birth
September 2, 2005 (AP)
POIPU, Hawaii — There's a new celebrity lazing away the day on the sunny beaches outside Kauai's south shore resorts. An endangered Hawaiian monk seal known as Seal 310 gave birth early Tuesday morning to a pup on the beach in front of Kiahuna Plantation Resort near Poipu.
The mother and baby have been attracting quite a crowd, and Kauai Marine Conservation coordinator Michele "Mimi" Olry was tasked with creating buffer zones to separate the pup from its two-legged admirers.
Olry orchestrated the volunteer efforts at the site, setting up tents and umbrellas for volunteer monitors.
"The resorts have been kind to work with us," she said.
And with schools going into session this week, the job of monk seal monitoring has been made a little quieter, she said.
Kauai, along with Niihau, is home to most of the 50 or so Hawaiian monk seals sighted by researchers on Hawaii's main islands. Hawaiian monk seals are an endangered species with a population of only about 1,300 living primarily in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
Olry said the birth caught her by surprise because she had been expecting a birth from another seal known as K02, also more affectionately referred to as "Poipu Mom." That seal was last spotted near the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa in Poipu.

Study sheds light on strange sea creatures
Scientists find shellfish that glow; others can see ultraviolet
September 2, 2005 (MSNBC)
After fleeing in the face of Hurricane Katrina, ocean researchers have returned to the Gulf Mexico where they are getting a revealing new look at the deep sea.
“We are exploring the deep sea with new eyes,” oceanographer Tamara Frank of the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution said Friday.
During Operation Deep Scope, Frank and others aboard the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Research Vessel Seward Johnson are using a camera that operates with dim red light to study life on the sea floor.
They have found a variety of deep-dwelling shellfish that produce their own light, animals with surprising ability to see ultraviolet light and a previously unknown type of squid, 6 feet (2 meters) long, that attacked their camera.
“Imagine, something that big that had never been seen before,” scientist Edith A. Widder, who recently left Harbor Branch, said in a telephone briefing.

Whale sightings during sea survey
September 1, 2005 (BBC)
A one-week event to monitor whales and dolphins around the United Kingdom revealed significant sightings off the South West.
Two Minke whales were seen in St Ives Bay in Cornwall and a group of 50 common dolphins was seen near Berry Head in south Devon.
Bottle-nose dolphins and porpoises were also seen off Lundy in north Devon and off north Cornish coasts.
The survey was conducted by the Sea Watch Foundation during August.
Groups of about 50 common dolphins were seen off the Channel Islands too.
BBC South West Environment Correspondent Adrian Campbell said: "The presence of larger schools of common dolphins is associated with good fish stocks.
"This snapshot of the whale and dolphin population suggests they are doing better here than some other parts of the UK."

Katrina reignites debate over global warming
September 1, 2005 (AP)
Hurricane Katrina's fury has reignited the scientific debate over whether global warming might be making hurricanes more ferocious.
At least one prominent study suggests that hurricanes have become significantly stronger in the past few decades during the same period that global average temperatures have increased. Katrina blew up in the Gulf of Mexico to a Category 5 hurricane with winds of 175 mph before slackening a bit Monday when it hit, swamping New Orleans and the Mississippi coast.
Other leading scientists agree the Atlantic Basin and Gulf Coast regions are being battered by a severe hurricane phase that could persist for another 20 years or more. But they believe that a natural environmental cycle is responsible rather than any human-induced change, and they point to what they consider to be large gaps in the global warming analysis conducted by a climatologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Roger Pielke Jr., who studies the social impacts of natural disasters and climate change at the University of Colorado, said any link between the intensity of Katrina and other recent hurricanes and global warming is "premature." Most forecasts suggest climate change would increase hurricane wind speeds by 5 percent or less later in this century.

Study Finds Oregon Wild Fish Risk Extinction
September 1, 2005 (AP)
PORTLAND, Ore. — The first status report on wild fish in a decade suggests that nearly half the native species in the state are at risk of extinction.
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists studied 69 distinct fish populations, including all varieties of the state's salmon and steelhead species, and most of the trout population. They also assessed selected sturgeon, lamprey, dace and chub species listed under the Endangered Species Act.
Eleven of the 33 salmon and steelhead populations are at risk of irreversible decline, and seven are potentially at risk, according to a draft of the report.
Eight historic populations have gone extinct in the past century, most of them concentrated in upper reaches of the Snake and Klamath rivers cut off from migrating fish by the construction of power-generating dams.
Spring chinook salmon illustrate the pattern. The species went extinct in the upper Snake and Klamath after dams were built. Four of the remaining six spring chinook units are at risk because of the loss of habitat, the loss of many historic sub-populations, the escape of large numbers of domesticated hatchery fish into spawning grounds and other problems.
Among trout species, such as redband and bull trout, 17 of 27 unique populations are at risk, five are potentially at risk, and four are not at risk.

Latest Findings on Plummeting Pacific Salmon Populations to Be Presented at 8th World Wilderness Congress; First Congress in United States Since 1987 Begins This Month
September 1, 2005 (WILD Foundation)
WASHINGTON — Close to 25 percent of all Pacific salmon species studied are at risk of extinction, according to the Atlas of the Pacific Salmon, released by State of the Salmon, a joint project between The Wild Salmon Center and Ecotrust.
The study represents the first map-based measurement of the condition of North Pacific salmon through their entire lifespan.
The book’s findings show that Pacific salmon appear to be headed in the same direction as their Atlantic counterparts. Half of all wild Atlantic salmon stocks are either extinct or in great decline. But although biologists, fishery managers and conservationists know a fair amount about the reasons for the decline in Atlantic salmon, they lack similar information for Pacific salmon.
“We know we are losing Pacific salmon species at an alarming rate, but we’ve been driving blind in our efforts to save them,” said Dr. Xanthippe Augerot, co-director of State of the Salmon. “The Atlas will help remedy the chronic lack of information that’s been hampering our efforts.”
The conclusions published in the Atlas are the result of 10 years of research undertaken by Dr. Augerot and her colleagues. The book proposes four approaches to solving these large-scale challenges: an international monitoring system; more effective fisheries management; increased conservation efforts; and improved partnerships to protect salmon throughout the entire Pacific Rim.

Stocks of Cod and Red Snapper Drop, but Others Improve
September 1, 2005 (Washington Post - By Juliet Eilperin)
Pacific whiting and North Atlantic swordfish stocks are rebounding but populations of cod and red snapper continue to struggle, according to a report released yesterday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Overall, the annual survey, which comes as the Bush administration is considering changing federal rules designed to prevent overfishing, said the state of the country's fisheries is largely unchanged from last year. NOAA Fisheries Service tracks a third of known fish stocks, and it reported that 19 percent of those populations are being fished faster than they can reproduce.
"This year's report show progress for some stocks but also signals we have our work cut out for us," said Bill Hogarth, who directs NOAA Fisheries. "We really have a plan of where we're going."
But marine advocates seized on the new report as fresh evidence that federal authorities have not clamped down on commercial exploitation. In New England, for example, management officials have decided to allow cod overfishing until 2009, even though they are trying to rebuild the dwindling species.

British Groups Mass Millions of Members to Halt Global Warming
September 1, 2005 (ENS)
LONDON, UK - Some of the largest British campaign organizations, united their millions of supporters today to demand action on climate change. Eighteen groups have joined forces to launch the biggest climate change coalition in British history. Five hundred volunteers formed a giant human banner on London's South Bank to mark the launch of the new movement, called Stop Climate Chaos.
The new coalition wants the Blair government to slash the UK's greenhouse gas emissions and make fighting climate change a key part of its plans to deal with global poverty. The UK holds the European Union Presidency until December 31, a position the coalition wants to see used to cool the global climate.
The National Federation of Women's Institutes, Greenpeace, Oxfam, Christian Aid, WWF, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development, Friends of the Earth, The Wildlife Trusts, Woodland Trust, People & Planet and Tearfund are some of the groups in the new coaliton.
The coalition will use its base of support "to campaign against government failings while mobilizing public support for government initiatives that reduce the huge levels of carbon dioxide being emitted."

South Korea says Finds Carcinogens in Chinese Fish
September 1, 2005 (Planet Ark)
SEOUL - South Korea officials said on Wednesday they were stepping up inspections of imported Chinese freshwater fish after finding cancer-causing chemicals in some fish sent from the country.

The Korea Food & Drug Administration (KFDA) said in a statement released on Tuesday it had found the carcinogens malachite green and leucomalachite in some imported Chinese carp available at a local wholesale market.
The KFDA said the fish were probably imported before Aug. 23. The agency had placed a quarantine on Chinese and Vietnamese eels since July after finding malachite green in eel and eel-related products from those countries.
Malachite green, which has been found to be carcinogenic in rats, has been widely used by fish farmers to kill parasites. The chemical is banned in many countries, including China.
Earlier this month Hong Kong, which relies heavily on mainland China for food supplies, found malachite green in eels and other freshwater fish.

Climate change will 'cause chaos'
August 31, 2005 (BBC)
Climate change will cause chaos in the seas and coastal communities around Scotland, according to a new report.
The conservation charity WWF said environmental changes would lead to more storms on the west coast and disruption to the food chain.
The report suggested major changes were on the way, with oceans becoming more acidic, plankton shifting and storm-driven floods more frequent.
WWF said the changes would affect fish, sea birds, dolphins and porpoises.
The report found the rise in frequency of major storm surges could wreak havoc on west coast communities, similar to storms which hit the Western Isles in January.
It said a rise in sea temperature, which has already increased about a degree in surface temperature, was also likely to disrupt the breeding, feeding and growing cycles of fish and sea birds.
Dolphins and porpoises were identified as being under threat from chemical pollution and a reduced food supply.
WWF Scotland's director Richard Dixon said reducing carbon dioxide emissions was the only way to prevent climate chaos and called on Scottish ministers to take action.

Climate change 'species threat'
August 31, 2005 (BBC)
Some species around Northern Ireland's coast are under threat because the sea is warming up, a WWF report has found.
The report warns the UK and Irish marine environment could see changes, with a deepening decline in cod and threats to sea bird colonies.
Pollution and reduced food could accelerate the decline of the harbour porpoise, a common sight off the east Antrim coast and the Foyle Estuary.
Malachy Campbell of WWF NI said the seas were under "severe pressure".
"This report shows that climate change has the power to deepen this crisis, disrupting and changing the entire ecosystem," he said.
The report - Climate change: Plunging our Seas into Deeper Crisis - said an increase in sea surface temperature will be a major factor in further disrupting the breeding, feeding and growing cycles of fish, and in turn sea birds and mammals.

Islands warned of global warming
August 31, 2005 (BBC)
Conservationists are predicting wildlife will be affected by climate change in the Channel Islands over the next 50 years.
A report by conservation group WWF has asked governments to do more to protect marine life from global warming.
But WWF said the geographical position of the islands made them particularly vulnerable to changes.
WWF Research Officer Emily Lewis-Browns said such changes would affect animals' breeding rates.
Ms Lewis-Browns, a marine research officer for WWF, said: "Certainly any storms may affect the Channel Islands more so than other areas, and also the warming of temperatures will be more noticeable because it's an area that is always going to be warmer than the north of Scotland, for example."
Ms Lewis-Browns added that varying sea temperatures which could be brought about by global warming would affect animals' reproduction.
She said: "What we find in warm seas is that the warming effect reduces productivity.
"Seas that are cooler have increased productivity. So, as seas warm, it reduces productivity."

Study: Ozone layer has stopped shrinking
August 31, 2005 (Reuters)
WASHINGTON -- The ozone layer has stopped shrinking but it will take decades to start recovering, U.S. scientists reported on Tuesday.
They said an international agreement to limit production of ozone-depleting chemicals has apparently worked, but the damage to ozone has not been halted completely.
An analysis of satellite records and surface monitoring instruments shows the ozone layer has grown a bit thicker in some parts of the world, but is still well below normal levels, the scientists report in Wednesday's issue of the Journal of Geophysical Research.
Elsewhere, the decline in ozone levels has stabilized, said Betsy Weatherhead, a researcher at the University of Colorado at Boulder and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "The observed changes may be evidence of ozone improvement in the atmosphere," she said in a statement.
The experts credited, at least in part, the 1987 Montreal Protocol which was ratified by more than 180 nations and set legally binding controls for on the production and consumption of ozone-depleting gases containing chlorine and bromine.
Chinese Fish Farms, Deemed Safe Suppliers to Hong Kong, are Dried-Out or Don't Exist
August 31, 2005 (AP)
HONG KONG — Several mainland Chinese fish farms selected by authorities to provide Hong Kong with safe freshwater fish either don't exist or are dried pools slated for urban development, local media reported Wednesday.
The news came amid a major scare about the safety of freshwater fish imported from the mainland. Some of the fish have tested positive for malachite green -- a possibly cancer-causing chemical that farmers use to fight infections in fish.
Mainland officials provided a list of 18 fish farms in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong that were supposed to be raising safe fish. But the list didn't have detailed addresses or contact information, the Ming Pao Daily reported.
Hong Kong health officials were not aware of the situation and only received confirmation from the mainland late Tuesday, said Sally Kong, a government spokeswoman.
Media investigations revealed that one selected farm could not be found and villagers claimed they have never heard of it. Another farm on the list has long gone out of business to make way for the construction of a factory, the paper said.
"The water level in the fish ponds is only ankle-high. How could we supply fish to Hong Kong?" a villager was quoted by the South China Morning Post as saying.
The daily said four of the operating farms had not been inspected by authorities this year and did not know they had been selected.

Scientist Scours Global Waters in Bid To Save Earth's Largest Freshwater Fishes
August 31, 2005 (AP - By Miranda Leitsinger)
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Floating down the Mekong in his dinghy, Zeb Hogan is on the ultimate fisherman's quest: to find the world's largest freshwater fishes.
The American biologist's search is to take him to 10 rivers around the globe including the Nile, Amazon and Mississippi, looking for about 20 species of hulking fish such as the goliath catfish, Chinese paddlefish and North American lake sturgeon -- not to catch them, he says, but to save them.
"These big, amazing creatures all over the world, they might be goners, on their way out," said Hogan.
Right now Hogan is on the Mekong that flows through the Indochinese peninsula, looking for a stingray said to weigh over 1,300 pounds (600 kilograms) -- as much as a full-grown longhorn steer.
He knows it's out there; he photographed one in 2002. And smaller stingrays abound. As he passes villages on riverbanks or floating on the water, he sees children playing with severed stingray tails.
The 2,600-mile (4,183-kilometer) Mekong is known for its diversity of river creatures, as well as their size, to judge from places along its banks named the Pool of the Giant Catfish, or the Pool of the Giant Carp.
Just last May, fishermen in Thailand landed a Mekong catfish that weighed 646 pounds (293 kilograms) and measured 8 feet, 10 inches (2.7-meter) long. It's believed to be the largest freshwater fish ever caught. It ended up on dinner tables.

Stressed Out Corals Will Get a Break From Dredging
August 31, 2005 (ENS)
FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida - For the first time researchers are measuring the stress level of coral organisms with a new high tech process. The test will measure the effect of a beach restoration project in Broward County, Florida on an adjacent coral reef.
The new stress measurement technique allows for identification of sub-lethal stress, providing managers with early diagnosis before damage becomes irreversible.
The approach is based on a coral stress level scale developed by researchers at the NOAA sponsored National Coral Reef Institute at Nova Southeastern University Oceanographic Center in Fort Lauderdale.
NOAA is working with Broward County to protect coral reef ecosystems against potential impacts of dredging as the county undertakes the beach restoration project.
The project involves movement of sand from local offshore sources on the beaches between Port Everglades and the border between Miami-Dade and Broward counties.
If coral stress levels due to excess turbidity or sedimentation during dredging activities exceed a pre-established threshold, the County’s Biological Monitoring Plan, as agreed to with Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection, states that the county will suspend activities until coral condition improves and dredging can be safely resumed.

Coral 'little damaged by tsunami'
August 30, 2005 (BBC)
Almost 90% of coral reefs hit by the Indian Ocean tsunami escaped severe damage, according to research.
Study of 175 sites along 700km of Thailand's west coast found 60% of reefs suffered little or no damage.
Just 13% were severely damaged in the tsunami which killed more than 220,000 people, but scientists expected that to recover in five to 10 years.
The findings are to be presented to the Royal Geographical Society's annual conference in London on Tuesday.
The study found the most northerly coast and islands more damaged than those further south, with shallow reefs on wave-exposed islands and shorelines most vulnerable.
Areas counted as severely damaged if at least half of the coral was broken or overturned.
Damage could have been caused both by the force of the waves, and stirred-up sediment smothering the coral.
In other areas, coral was dying because the earthquake had lifted the seabed and placed the coral on dry land.

Georgia To Allow Underwater Logging, Despite Environmental Concerns
August 30, 2005 (AP — By Elliott Minor)
CAIRO, Ga. — Along with regular lumber, Ryan Lee's sawmill supplies wood from sunken cypress and pine logs, which fell into rivers while being rafted to ports and sawmills during the heyday of Southern logging in the 1800s and early 1900s.
Retrieving the valuable logs from river bottoms has been illegal in Georgia since 1998 because of legal and environmental concerns, forcing suppliers like Lee to buy them in other states.
But that's about to change.
Earlier this year, Georgia lawmakers approved legislation authorizing underwater logging for two years on parts of the Flint and Altamaha rivers mostly in southern Georgia. If there are no problems with the logging, the law may be extended.
Environmentalists oppose the work, citing concerns for spawning fish, water quality and the legality of disposing of the logs -- which are technically state property -- at less than market value.
"This is the nursery grounds of the river. To create a business that benefits a few ... certainly is not in the public interest," said Deborah Sheppard, executive director of Altamaha Riverkeeper, a Darien-based river watchdog group.

Jellyfish Cause Shutdown of Swedish Nuclear Reactor
August 30, 2005 (AP)
STOCKHOLM, Sweden — A Swedish nuclear power plant shut down one of its three reactors Monday because of an abnormal accumulation of jellyfish in the cooling system.
The Oskarshamn plant in southeastern Sweden uses water from the Baltic Sea in its cooling tanks.
The water has been unusually rich in jellyfish in recent weeks, but the problem grew worse Monday morning, forcing officials to shut down the reactor.
"When there are too many jellyfish in the cooling water, the flow is hindered and we have to clean it to keep the reactor going at full effect," plant spokesman Erik Mattsen said.
Operator OKG said there was no danger to the public. The reactor was to be restarted Tuesday.
The Oscarshamn plant supplies about 10 percent of the electricity used in Sweden. The reactor that was shut down was commissioned in 1972 and was Sweden's first commercial nuclear power unit.

Award-Winning Documentary Hawksbill Babies at Oneloa is Available to Teachers for Free
August 30, 2005 (Snorkel Bob Foundation)
MAUI, HAWAII — The DVD, Hawksbill Babies at Oneloa (Makena Beach), shows a rare daylight hatching of the most endangered turtles in the Pacific. Tree shade and dark clouds fooled turtles and nest watchers both, cooling the sand to nighttime temperatures. When emissaries of the Snorkel Bob Foundation came upon some half-emerged, apparently dead babies, they recorded events as nature kicked in. The audio is an interview with turtle biologist Cheryl King by Snorkel Bob, Himself.
Hawksbill Babies debuted in Turtlerama on Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island in January, 2005, with special matinee shows for 800 school kids on Kauai. The Snorkel Bob Foundation forwarded Turtlerama proceeds to The Sea Turtle Restoration Project's Save The Leatherback Campaign and the 2005 Hawksbill Recovery Project on Maui. Turtlerama attendees wrote letters and petitioned United Nations General Secretary Kofi Anan to stop longline fishing, the primary killer of the nearly-extinct giant Leatherback turtle. The event succeeded in generating a record number of signatures and personal letters from school kids across Hawaii, leading to the UN agenda for June 2005. Longline fishing may soon be banned.
Hawksbill Babies at Oneloa received an award for best documentary film at The Hawaii Ocean Film Festival this summer in Kauai, Hawaii, and is now a featured segment of the Compleat Reef Video available at all Snorkel Bob shops in Hawaii or at http://www.snorkelbob.com/.

Workers struggle to save seals
Rescue center nears capacity
August 29, 2005 (AP)
WESTBROOK, Maine -- The seals look up with sad eyes, some too tired or sick to lift their heads. Some have been abandoned by their mothers, others are malnourished. A few have been injured by sharks looking for a seal pup snack.
While the sick animals await treatment, workers and volunteers blend fish frappes for the young pups. With five feedings a day, they consume 500 pounds (225 kilograms) of fish daily.
The Marine Animal Lifeline is the largest of a handful of organizations that rescue and rehabilitate stranded seals in New England, covering an area from the New Hampshire border to Rockland, Maine. Last year, it had 805 reports of stranded, injured or dead seals but took in no more than 47 seals at any given time.
In July, that number swelled to 60 and a call went out for more volunteers.
"We're pretty much the county hospital. We take anything and everything, and we're filled to capacity," founder Greg Jakush said over the sound of barking seals as workers fed them meals of fish.

Bruce Babbitt Calls for More Dams To Cope with Global Warming's Effects
August 29, 2005 (Contra Costa Times — By Mike Taugher)
SACRAMENTO — California should build more dams and reconsider building a highly controversial peripheral canal, a key architect of the state's decade-old Delta water plan said Thursday.
Bruce Babbitt, who served as Interior Secretary during the Clinton administration, said the state has to worry not only about an aging infrastructure and a growing population, but also the fact that the state's water supplies will be sorely stretched by the effects of global warming.
"It is no longer a theory," Babbitt said in testimony to the Little Hoover Commission watchdog agency in Sacramento. "It is no longer a probability. The effects of global warming are upon us, and they are going to have a major impact on water management in California."
New reservoirs will be needed to offset the loss of snowpack, he said.
And rising sea levels will push saltwater further into the Delta, fouling drinking water for 23 million Californians who get at least some of their water from pumps in the south Delta. That problem could be addressed by a peripheral canal, which would divert water from the Sacramento River and shunt it to Southern California in a way that bypasses the Delta.

Sea Turtle Film Chosen for Broadcast on PBS Stations
August 29, 2005 (ENS)
FOREST KNOLLS, California - The new documentary film "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) will be broadcast this fall on PBS stations nationwide, beginning with KCSM, San Mateo, California.
The documentary combing science, activism and rare footage of endangered sea turtles will be seen on KCSM-TV Saturday, September 10th at 7:30 p.m. KCSM is available on Channel 17 for most Bay Area cable viewers.
“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. Sylvia Earle, a National Geographic explorer-in-residence, in the 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 five to 30 years, if current threats from industrial longline fishing are not curtailed.
Every year, industrial fishing boats set billions of baited hooks on lines that stretch for miles, and millions of miles of nets to catch swordfish and tuna. These hooks and nets are primary causes in the decline of the leatherbacks.
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 long, tipping the scales at 2,000 lbs. Conservationists are becoming increasingly alarmed and active in their fight to save these ancient giants, and to stop harmful human impacts on the world’s ocean ecosystems.

Global Warming Led to Mass Extinction 250 Million Years Ago
August 29, 2005 (ENS)
BOULDER, Colorado - Scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado have created a computer simulation showing Earth's climate in unprecedented detail at the time of the greatest mass extinction in history. It shows that rising atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide interfered with ocean circulation of oxygen that led to marine extinctions, and raised temperatures on land that led to terrestrial extinctions.
"The results demonstrate how rapidly rising temperatures in the atmosphere can affect ocean circulation, cutting off oxygen to lower depths and extinguishing most life," says lead author Jeffrey Kiehl, a scientist with the Climate and Global Dynamics Division of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).
Kiehl and co-author Christine Shields focused on the dramatic events at the end of the Permian period of the Paleozoic Era, when an estimated 90 to 95 percent of all marine species, as well as about 70 percent of all species on land, became extinct.
The research appears in the September issue of the journal "Geology."

Thriving coral reef thrills marine research group
August 29, 2005 (SF Chronicle – by Jim Doyle)
PACIFIC OCEAN - Marine scientists sailing the central Pacific to study its remote coral reefs have reached an underwater Eden even more pristine than they had hoped for, according to e-mail dispatches they sent Sunday.
The elaborate coral structures of Kingman Reef, an atoll about halfway between Hawaii and Australia, are teeming with tiger sharks, dolphins, aggressive snapper, green turtles and giant manta rays -- as densely packed with sea life as a fully stocked tropical aquarium.
"Eureka!" expedition leader Enric Sala wrote in an e-mail sent by satellite from the White Holly, which is based in San Francisco. "We have found it -- a pristine reef, where corals are alive and healthy and form a forest so thick that there is no space even for sand between them."
In contrast, the scientists found clear evidence of overfishing and global warming at three nearby islands: Tabuaeran (population 1,500), Kiritimati (population 10,000) and Palmyra atoll, which was briefly occupied by the United States during World War II. The scientists will next visit Teraina Island (population 950) in the Republic of Kiribati.