Monday, March 29, 2010
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Sue Lieberman, director of international policy with the Pew Environment Group, suggested lobbying from the fishing industry was ultimately responsible for the defeat."This meeting presented a golden opportunity for governments to take a stand against overfishing, and too many governments failed to do so," she said."The market for this fish is just too lucrative, and the pressure from fishing interests too great, for enough governments to support a truly sustainable future for the fish."
Japan says a ban would devastate fishing economies. As if destroying the fish won’t.
So poorly has this body performed its task (it was declared a "disgrace" by an independent performance review two years ago) that conservationists have another way of interpreting its initials - the International Conspiracy to Catch All Tunas.And it was in frustration with Iccat's annual habit of setting quotas higher than its scientists recommended (they have advised zero quotas for the last few years) that conservationists turned to a CITES ban as an alternative way of reducing the catch.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
He became world's youngest scuba diver after he dived 40 feet underwater near Grande Island in Goa last month, breaking the earlier world record of Egypt's Natasha Turner.
In the settlement agreement, the [U.S. Environmental Protection Agency] said it would take public comment on the increasing acidity of oceans, on ways states can determine if their coastal waters are affected, and on how states can limit pollutants that cause the problem.Such measures could include regional cap-and-trade systems to limit carbon-dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels or requiring industrial plants to reduce their emissions as a condition of any discharge permits granted under the Clean Water Act, Sakashita said.
Monday, March 15, 2010
"Our tuna won't affect the ecological system so that we can help stop draining marine resources," said Takahiro Hama, a director of the company based in the southern Japanese city of Amakusa."We have just begun full shipments to the United States," he said. "We hope to provide our sustainable tuna for Japanese sushi bars and restaurants which are concerned about protests from environmental activists."
Sunday, March 14, 2010
Friday, March 12, 2010
For some reason I ran across the name of geophysicist/adventurer and National Geographic "explorer in residence" Robert Ballard (of "Titanic" fame).
Says "National Geographic" of Ballard:
Best known for the discovery of RMS Titanic, Ballard has led more than 120 oceanographic expeditions. He located the wrecks of the battleship Bismarck, the aircraft carrier Yorktown, John F. Kennedy’s PT-109, the nuclear attack submarines USS Scorpion and USS Thresher, and numerous ancient ships in the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. He also discovered and documented the extraordinary marine communities surrounding deep-sea hydrothermal vents.
Turns out the Oscar telecast is just about the only way (OK, OK, there's that Internet thing) that the Japanese public was going to hear about this project, which lifts the grisly shroud of secrecy on Japanese dolphin and porpoise slaughters.
I hope it boosts their "DOLPHIN" to 44144 text-messaging awareness campaign.
This is what director Louie Psihoyos would have liked to tell the global audience:
The Plastiki's journey will spotlight current environmental issues. En route to Australia, Plastiki will sail through the infamous North Pacific Gyre, now home to "The Great Garbage Patch," named due to the high levels of waste that have been drawn there by ocean currents. Estimated to be around the size of Texas, this contaminated area of ocean has by some estimates more plastic than food for marine life."I was astounded to hear that that there are places in our oceans where the ratio between plastic and plankton is 6-to-1," de Rothschild told CNN, referring to the area.
It's long been clear which side Egypt's bread is buttered on. The Red Sea side, with first-rate marine reserves like the legendary Ras Mohamed (pictured is an Arabian Picasso Triggerfish near the lighthouse at Ras um Sid).
But now Egypt's looking to spread the wealth in the form of a nearly 400-square-km marine park on its Mediterranean coast, at a place called the Gulf of el-Salloum. Says Reuters:
"Declaring this protectorate is a way to confront a host of environmental problems, such as soil degradation and coastal inundation, climate change and loss of biological diversity," [Egyptian Environment Minister Maged] George said in a statement, adding that the area was rich in natural resources.
The protectorate contains more than 160 migratory and local bird species, about 30 reptile and amphibian species and 10,000 to 12,000 marine species. Its creation should encourage scientific research on biological diversity in Egypt, he said.
When the tragic effects of global warming arrive, they're unlikely to present themselves in the spectacular form of a 1,000-meter wall of water or the demise of the dinosaurs.
They'll probably look more like creeping dead zones of hypoxia -- oxygen-starved pockets (the circus-clown variety, not Dittos Jeans) that suffocate most anything too slow to escape.
Given mainstream media's taste for the dramatic, it's gratifying to see big news outlets actually covering issues like this, so hats off to Les Blumenthal and McClatchy for this story. (Although illustrating the story with a dolphin is an odd choice, seeing as his oxygen isn't at issue.)
I read stories like McClatchy's and it gives me the heebie-jeebies.
Now, I live in a city that suffers frequent inversions, when cold air acts as a lid to trap warmer air that just hovers over us all like one of those dark clouds above an angry cartoon character. But it's not instantly fatal. What's more, I can escape in the short term -- to higher ground, or to the 'burbs, if not the countryside. Slow-moving sea creatures -- worms, mussels, starfish, urchins -- don't have that luxury. And even the faster movers' luck will run out if these blots of blight keep spreading.
This story is all about causality, of course, since we've known for a long time about a great many oceanic dead zones around the world (the McClatchy story says there are 400, and reliable sources put the number of "coastal dead zones" at around 50 a decade ago). For instance, the massive Gulf of Mexico dead zone, which at around 22,000 square kilometers is now bigger than the state of Israel, is largely a result of leaching and runoff from the Mississippi River.
So how do we know global warming's at fault in cases like those off the coast of the western U.S., where this story was focused? (It refers more broadly, however, to a growing problem in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans.)
Commendably, the McClatchy piece tries to explain. It quotes oceanographers Gregory Johnson of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Seattle and Jack Barth of Oregon State University suggesting that the oxygen depletion has been growing quickly in recent decades, presumably correlative to rising global temperatures:
In some spots, such as off the Southern California coast, oxygen levels have dropped roughly 20 percent over the past 25 years. Elsewhere, scientists say, oxygen levels might have declined by one-third over 50 years.
"The real surprise is how this has become the new norm," said Jack Barth , an oceanography professor at Oregon State University . "We are seeing it year after year."
Barth and others say the changes are consistent with current climate-change models. Previous studies have found that the oceans are becoming more acidic as they absorb more carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
The other indicator of global warming's role in all this, the article goes on to suggest, is the havoc that it plays with upwelling and downwelling, preventing the essential exchange of nutrient-rich, oxygen-poor water for oxygen-rich surface water that's nutrient-poor.
That pretty much sums up the two most compelling arguments in Blumenthal's piece pointing to rising temperatures -- and thus man, unless you're the Czech president or in the fossil-fuels business -- as a major factor in these expanding oceanic dead zones.
Maintaining a ban on the ivory trade in exchange for throwing a lifeline to the Bluefin Tuna? Sounds like a win-win situation to me. Reuters has more:
Support protection of our elephants and we'll help you protect your bluefin tuna, 23 African countries told the European Union on Friday.
I'm not sure what motivates European opposition to the ivory ban. Is the EU currying favor with ivory lover China? Debt-strapped Tanzania and Zambia -- the two countries reportedly trying to chip away at the ivory ban -- don't exactly have a lot of heft on this or many other topics.
"Please do not force our collective hand to cast our 23 votes against the EU on any of the issues it is supporting such as, for example, the high profile proposed ban on bluefin tuna," said the letter seen by Reuters.
Let's hope Europe's priorities are sorted out by the time the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) meets on March 13.
Now AP reports this:
ADELAIDE, Australia (AP) - Australian police conducted searches Saturday [March 6] on two anti-whaling vessels that recently clashed with Japanese ships in the Antarctic Ocean in an attempt to obstruct their annual catch, police and activists said.
Federal police with search warrants boarded the Steve Irwin and the Bob Barker, ships belonging to the activist group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, as the result of a "formal referral from Japanese authorities," a spokesman said on condition of anonymity in accordance with police policy. He gave no further details, including on what basis the warrant was issued.
Are Japanese authorities really intent on acting like cartoon villains?
Naturalist Rachel Carson wrote in her 1955 book "The Edge of the Sea" that "Today a little more land may belong to the sea, tomorrow a little less."
In deference to Carson and her historical perspective, I propose a new label for one of global warming's expected effects on our seas and coastlines: the Great Ocean Reclamation Project (GORP).
The folks at Virgin Limited Edition are billing their "Necker Nymph" as an "underwater plane" that dives to a depth of 40 meters, or about as deep as lots of casual recreational divers ever get. Here's some of what CNN says:
The $631,000 flying sub, the first of its kind, uses fighter jet technology and was designed by Hawkes Ocean Technologies. It is transparent enough to allow divers a 360-degree view of marine life and Virgin is marketing it as a way to view dolphins and whales close up.
I can't help wondering how a submersible with "fighter jet technology" that can do "dolphin-like flips" sneaks up on "dolphins and whales" without either ramming them or frightening their flukes off.
Now check out the claim that follows:
The new sub also appears to be environmentally friendly. It is buoyant, which stops it from mistakenly landing on reefs, and it is relatively quiet -- allowing it to pass through fragile ecosystems without causing too much upheaval, Virgin says.
It's unclear to whom it "appears to be environmentally friendly." But there is a clue tacked onto the end of the paragraph. Virgin says. If they're going to make that claim, let's hope there's stronger evidence for skeptics than "because it floats," is "relatively quiet," and won't cause "too much upheaval." After all, just a little upheaval and there goes the neighborhood.
The story in Britain's "The Sun" is a lot more fun to read, of course, because of its take-no-prisoners editorial style. Crucially, it adds that Sir Richard is "building a stronger version to go deeper than any sub has ever been."