Commerce Secretary Gary Locke Announces $167 Million in Recovery Act Funding for 50 Coastal Restoration Projects

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke announced today 50 habitat restoration projects that will restore damaged wetlands, shellfish beds, coral reefs and reopen fish passages that boost the health and resiliency of our nation’s coastal and Great Lakes communities. Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was provided $167 million for marine and coastal habitat restoration.

"These Recovery Act projects will put Americans to work while restoring our coasts and combating climate change,” Locke said. “They reflect our investment in sound science and commitment to help strengthen local economies.”

Healthy coastal habitats are critical to the recovery and sustainability of the U.S. economy. Coastal areas generate more than 28 million jobs in the United States. Commercial and recreational fishing employs 1.5 million people and contributes $111 billion to the nation’s economy.

“NOAA is investing in green jobs for Americans to restore habitat for valuable fish and wildlife and strengthen coastal communities, making them more resilient to storms, sea-level rise and other effects of climate change,” Commerce under secretary of oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco said. “In addition to the immediate jobs created by the projects, stronger and healthier coastal communities will boost our nation’s long-term economic health.”

A significant number of these coastal and Great Lakes restoration projects — in 22 states and two territories — are in areas with some of the highest unemployment rates, including the states of California, Oregon, and Michigan. The projects will employ Americans with a range of skills including laborers, nursery workers, design engineers, restoration ecologists, landscape architects, hydrologists, and specialized botanists.

In addition to direct jobs, the projects are estimated to create indirect jobs in industries that supply materials and administrative, clerical, and managerial services.

When complete, the projects will have restored more than 8,900 acres of habitat and removed obsolete and unsafe dams that open more than 700 stream miles where fish migrate and spawn. The projects also will remove more than 850 metric tons of debris, rebuild oyster and other shellfish habitat, and reduce threats to 11,750 acres of coral reefs.

The 50 projects were chosen from a pool of 814 proposals totaling more than $3 billion in requests. The agency worked through a rigorous selection process to identify and prioritize projects meeting the Recovery Act’s criteria.

More than 200 technical reviewers from across NOAA worked in groups to review all the applications and the top 109 were chosen for panel review. Proposals were ranked by overall quality and with consideration given to program priority areas and geography. The determining criteria were that projects meet NOAA’s highest priority mission needs for ecological restoration, be “shovel ready” and generate the largest number of jobs in the shortest period of time, and create lasting value for the American public.

For further information on funded projects nationwide, go to the NOAA Recovery Act Web site. The public will be able to follow the progress of each project on the recovery Web site, which will include an interactive online map that enables the public to track where and how NOAA recovery funds are spent.

See list of sites here: http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2009/20090630_restoration.html

Hundreds of juvenile sharks slayed for their fins

PANAMA. Panama Marvel Tours is a local tour company which explores the fauna and flora of Panama. On a recent trip, company director, Lory Forero de Proctor took two Americans – one a military man and the other a House worker - for a sea tour in Darien. They were in for a shocking experience

The travellers departed from Punta Alegre to visit Cedro Island, a mineral-rich site in the Caribbean Sea. On landing, they decided to explore the island, only to find a scene of death.
A huge area of the coast was covered with hundreds - if not thousands – of dismembered juvenile sharks.

“Without noticing it at first, we were walking over their dead bodies,” said Lory, disconcerted and ashamed the tourists had to witness this tragic sight. She said they saw nearby a small boat of indigenous people with fishing nets, which could mean that the sharks were victims of artisanal fin-fishing. But since there were no witnesses, this is just a theory.

Shark fining is the removal and retention of shark fins and the discard at sea of the carcass. In this case, the sharks were just tossed on the beach. The international demand for shark fins is enormous and represents big income in the economy but illegal and excessive catches are a threat to conservation of the species.

La Estrella contacted the Aquatic Resources Authority of Panama (ARAP) to know where they stand on this matter but the person in charge of this topic was not reachable. A public relations employee told the newspaper that it could mean a case of illegal fishing. She said ARAP has ports that regulate all fishing activities in Panama. She also remarked that the method seen in the pictures is not adequate and that it could contaminate the island.

ARAP´s office of Inspection, Surveillance and Control said that had not received any prior report of this matter. They will now contact their regional office in Darien for them to go and inspect the area.

Law 44 of 2006 sanctions the crime of illegal fishing with minimal fines - $100 – and seizure of the product. Law 9 of March 16 2006 prohibits the practice of shark fining in Panamanian territorial waters. However it does not include the fishing of juvenile sharks, according to the PR person in ARAP. Reports of suspicious fishing activities can be made to ARAP´s Inspection, Surveillance and Control office at 800-7272.

Source: http://www.laestrella.com.pa/mensual/2009/06/29/contenido/116562.asp


Simple solution to ocean pollution is in the (non-plastic) bag

AS ENVIRONMENTAL challenges go, climate change is the most significant issue facing our generation. But what chance do we have of getting in place the complex solutions for climate change when it appears we can't even tackle a simple solution for the problem of plastic bags: banning them.

Just like climate sceptics, our political leaders continue to listen to the self-interests of industry that claim plastic bags are not a problem. Those who make them and rely on their cheap supply deny there's much of an environmental impact, an attitude shared by greenhouse-polluting industries. And just like the industries that are responsible for human-induced climate change, manufacturers of plastic bags and the retailers that keep handing them out blame you and me — families and individuals — for the pollution they cause.

Are plastic bags a problem? The United Nations Environment Program this month released the first study of the impact of marine debris throughout the world's oceans. The report — Marine Litter: a Global Challenge — found that plastic, especially bags and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles, is the most pervasive type of marine litter on the planet and that plastic makes up more than 80 per cent of all rubbish found in the oceans. Plastic bags alone make up almost 10 per cent.

UN environment program executive director Achim Steiner said that "some of the litter, like thin-film, single-use plastic bags, which choke marine life, should be banned or phased out rapidly everywhere because there is simply zero justification for manufacturing them any more, anywhere".

In a shocking illustration of the extent of damage that can be caused by rubbish dumped at sea, the report highlighted that much of the litter off Western Australia ends up on the east coast of South Africa. Along the way, animals including birds, fish and turtles lethally mistake the dumped plastic for food.

In Australia, the Federal Government's Threatened Species Scientific Committee has found plastic bags and other marine debris are a direct threat to 20 marine species, including the loggerhead turtle, southern right whale, blue whale and tristan albatross. The committee has listed plastic bags as a "key threatening process" under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

Plastic is just like radioactive waste — it doesn't go away. Plastic bags do break up but they simply become smaller and smaller pieces of plastic. Those microscopic pieces of plastic are now entering the food chain earlier as they are ingested by marine life.

Plastic bags are convenient but so, too, are the alternatives. The key issue is the habit we've formed. Just as taking groceries home in a plastic bag has become habit, so, too, would using the cheap, practical alternatives, such as reusable bags made out of washable non plastics, which we already have.

The stubborn refusal to embrace change does not come from the community; it comes from those advising our politicians. Time and time again, the community has raised its communal hands in support of a ban. South Australia and a growing number of communities throughout the country become so fed up with the lack of action that they've moved to introduce their own plastic bag ban.

Not long after stepping into the role of Federal Environment Minister, Peter Garrett publicly announced that our environment had suffered through too many years of inaction and that he would take swift action to ban the dreaded plastic bag.

Just weeks ago, our state and federal environment ministers met in Hobart to discuss waste issues. Credit must be given to them for taking the long-overdue steps towards the serious consideration of a container refund or similar scheme, and tackling electronic waste. But on the topic of plastic bags, they were quiet.

More than 4 million plastic bags are pushed out through supermarket checkouts each year. Of that, just 3 per cent are recycled and the rest end up in our environment or in landfill.

The solution is simple and it has community support. It's about time the Government broke the habit and banned plastic bags nationwide.

Ian Kiernan AO is chairman of Clean Up Australia.

Source: http://www.watoday.com.au/opinion/simple-solution-to-ocean-pollution-is-in-the-nonplastic-bag-20090622-ctyd.html?page=-1

Corals Stay Close to Home

ScienceDaily — The thought of coral reefs tends to conjure up images of tropical vacations, complete with snorkeling among tropical fish in crystal clear waters

Rapid climate change, and increased pollution, ocean acidification and overfishing threaten to darken this picture considerably. These factors heavily stress corals, and thus put both the countless marine organisms that count on corals for habitat and shelter, and the $1 billion dollar tourism industry fueled by coral reefs at significant risk.

Conservation biologists have been scrambling to find ways to conserve and protect these remarkable sea creatures. However, the design of marine reserves requires knowledge of the distances moved by the mobile juvenile stage of corals so that the natural processes that maintain healthy populations can be encouraged.

A recent study published in Evolutionary Applications by Australian biologist Jim Underwood has found surprisingly that despite the fact that corals cast their eggs and sperm haphazardly into the oceans, certain species of coral show remarkable fidelity to their home range.

Underwood sampled DNA from coral reefs in the Indiana Ocean and found that individual corals located in the same group of reefs are more closely related than previously thought.

These results suggest that since most recruitment of these Indian Ocean coral populations comes from other locally sourced coral, one cannot depend on genetic material from distant populations of corals to replenish or restore degraded local populations. In these regions, marine reserves that maintain high local genetic diversity should be favoured.

Journal reference:

  1. Underwood et al. Genetic diversity and divergence among coastal and offshore reefs in a hard coral depend on geographic discontinuity and oceanic currents. Evolutionary Applications, 2009; 2 (2): 222 DOI: 10.1111/j.1752-4571.2008.00065.x
Adapted from materials provided by Wiley - Blackwell, via AlphaGalileo.


Whaling just got more difficult in the southern ocean whale sanctuary

Confirmed: Earthrace Superboat Joining Sea Shepherd Fleet

78 foot trimaran wave piercer to intercept and block harpoons.

When we first heard the rumors that Sea Shepherd might acquire the sleek, biodiesel-fueled powerboat called Earthrace — we wanted to believe. But seriously, would it be possible? Could an anti-whaling organization land something out of a James Bond movie to further their cause?


Outside the International Whaling Commission meeting in Portugal, Sea Shepherd announced plans for their sixth campaign against Japanese commercial whaling in the Southern Ocean whale sanctuary - Operation Waltzing Matilda. They also revealed the incredible news that the Earthrace will be joining the SS Steve Irwin in this new operation. And yes, it will change from its current silver to the Sea Shepherd’s striking black.

“It looks like a spaceship. It can do 40 knots and dive under waves completely. We’ll be using it to intercept and block harpoons,” said Captain Paul Watson, who earlier this week was arrested (And later released) after entering Portugal. He added that the organization was outfitting the vessel with half a tonne of Kevlar to toughen it against the ice. “It has the endurance to go half way round the world on a tank of fuel,” he said. “They won’t get away from me.”

The Steve Irwin will also be receiving some love in the form of $500,000 in repairs and additions. Its buckled hull plates have been repaired (after clashes earlier this year with the Japanese), and a powerful water cannon has been added on the bow to match the whalers’.

Finally, the organization confirmed that the Animal Planet television crew will be back to film season three of the popular show Whale Wars. “We are taking the most powerful anti-whaling weapon at our disposal: a film crew,” said Laurens de Groot, a Sea Shepherd Netherlands Director. “The cameras are more powerful than cannons and our ammunition is the naked truth about illegal whaling. We intend to keep the focus on Japanese crimes and we intend to sink the Japanese whaling fleet – economically.”

via IndyBay and The Brisbane Times


Third of 64 shark species at risk, group warns

'Virtually unprotected' from overfishing, accidental catches and 'finning'

GLAND, Switzerland - A third of the 64 species of high-seas sharks are threatened with extinction because they are overfished or killed incidentally in swordfish and tuna catches, a leading conservation group warned Thursday.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature, the producer of the world's Red List of Threatened Species, released its shark study ahead of a meeting in Spain next week of tuna fishery managers. The gathering includes those responsible for fisheries "in which sharks are taken without limit," IUCN said.

In those areas with fisheries, the IUCN added, the danger is even greater, with half of all species there threatened with extinction.

"Despite mounting threats, sharks remain virtually unprotected on the high seas," said Sonja Fordham, a shark specialist for the group. "The vulnerability and lengthy migrations of most open ocean sharks call for coordinated, international conservation plans."

The great and scalloped hammerhead sharks and the giant devil ray are globally endangered, IUCN said. The basking and oceanic whitetip sharks, two Mako species and three Thrashers join the iconic great white shark as globally vulnerable to extinction.

IUCN said ocean sharks were often only incidental bycatch as fishermen sought tuna and swordfish. But new markets for shark meat, especially the fins used in Asian soups, are driving demand.

The worst response from the fisheries industry has been "finning," which is when the fins are cut off and the rest of the shark's body is dumped back in the sea, IUCN said. The practice has been banned in most international waters, but the rules are poorly enforced, it said.

Sharks take many years to mature and have few offspring, making them particularly sensitive to overfishing, IUCN said.

High Carbon Dioxide Levels Cause Abnormally Large Fish Ear Bones

ScienceDaily — Rising carbon dioxide levels in the ocean have been shown to adversely affect shell-forming creatures and corals, and now a new study by researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego has shown for the first time that CO2 can impact a fundamental bodily structure in fish.

A brief paper published in the June 26 issue of the journal Science describes experiments in which fish that were exposed to high levels of carbon dioxide experienced abnormally large growth in their otoliths, or ear bones. Otoliths serve a vital function in fish by helping them sense orientation and acceleration.

The researchers had hypothesized that otoliths in young white seabass growing in waters with elevated carbon dioxide would grow more slowly than a comparable group growing in seawater with normal CO2 levels. They were surprised to discover the reverse, finding "significantly larger" otoliths in fish developing in high-CO2 water.

The fish in high-CO2 water were not larger in overall size, only the otoliths grew demonstrably bigger.

"At this point one doesn't know what the effects are in terms of anything damaging to the behavior or the survival of the fish with larger otoliths," said David Checkley, a Scripps Oceanography professor and lead author of the new study. "The assumption is that anything that departs significantly from normality is an abnormality and abnormalities at least have the potential for having deleterious effects."

With carbon dioxide levels rising due to human activities, particularly fossil fuel burning, resulting in both increased ocean CO2 and ocean acidification, the researchers intend to broaden their studies to examine specific areas, such as determining whether the otolith growth abnormality exists in fish other than white seabass; locating the physical mechanism that causes the enhanced otolith growth; and assessing whether the larger otoliths have a functional effect on the survival and the behavior of the fish.

"Number three is the big one," said Checkley. "If fish can do just fine or better with larger otoliths then there's no great concern. But fish have evolved to have their bodies the way they are. The assumption is that if you tweak them in a certain way it's going to change the dynamics of how the otolith helps the fish stay upright, navigate and survive."

In addition to serving in orientation and acceleration, otoliths help reveal physical characteristics of fish. Because otoliths grow in onion-like layers, scientists use otoliths to determine the age of fish, counting the increments similar to tree-ring dating.

Coauthors of the paper include Andrew Dickson, John Radich and Rebecca Asch of Scripps Oceanography; Motomitsu Takahashi of the Seikai National Fisheries Research Institute in Nagasaki, Japan; and Nadine Eisenkolb of the University of Southern California.

The research was supported by the Academic Senate of UC San Diego.

Adapted from materials provided by University of California - San Diego, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.


Why Protect Turtles & Beaches from Human Harassment?

This is why:

About: Manatee Conservation Trust:

Manatee Conservation Trust The Trust is a non-profit organization based at Nariva, Manzanilla with the majority of its membership (approximating 75%) being drawn from the local communities. Representatives of other environmental interest groups and government agencies comprise the remaining membership. Although the flagship project started out as the protection and rehabilitation of the West Indian Manatee and its habitat, it has grown to encompass the conservation, protection and rehabilitation of the flora and fauna of Nariva Swamp and the adjacent environmentally sensitive areas. For futher information please contact 620-4878

Turtle Heros! Manatee Conservation Trust

Amidst all the bad publicity focused on "a few" people of Trinidad and Tobago for riding, sitting or otherwise harassing turtles during their attempts to lay their eggs we have found some video of "Turtle Heros" we would like to share with you.

On Monday 25th May 2009 at 10:00 am the members of the Manatee Conservation Trust (MCT) led by Michael James and Sham Ramsubhage, along with some members of the Manzanilla Community, rescued a disoriented leatherback turtle at Manzanilla which strayed almost 200 yards from the beach, crossing a housing development before ending up in the swamplands. Since the beginning of the turtle nesting season in March, dozens of turtles have headed into the wrong direction after laying. It is not unusual for the Police to receive calls regularly from civic minded Citizens, using the Manzanilla Mayaro Road, of turtles crossing the road. The Police who have close working relationship with members of the Trust and members of the community have responded and rescued all but one which was found dead 200 yards across the road into the grasslands of the Nariva Swamp.

Thanks to the driver of the wrecker who was headed to an accident scene and decided to lend his assistance to the distressed turtle first.

The MCT are currently sourcing slings and a hydraulic vehicle to make this tedious exercise less stressful for these animals. Oops! Sorry about not being able to see the animals’ entry into the sea… the battery went dead. Nevertheless the 500lb turtle was safely returned.

About: Manatee Conservation Trust:

Manatee Conservation Trust The Trust is a non-profit organization based at Nariva, Manzanilla with the majority of its membership (approximating 75%) being drawn from the local communities. Representatives of other environmental interest groups and government agencies comprise the remaining membership. Although the flagship project started out as the protection and rehabilitation of the West Indian Manatee and its habitat, it has grown to encompass the conservation, protection and rehabilitation of the flora and fauna of Nariva Swamp and the adjacent environmentally sensitive areas. For futher information please contact 620-4878

Large 2009 Gulf Of Mexico 'Dead Zone' Predicted

ScienceDaily — University of Michigan aquatic ecologist Donald Scavia and his colleagues say this year's Gulf of Mexico "dead zone" could be one of the largest on record, continuing a decades-long trend that threatens the health of a half-billion-dollar fishery.

The scientists' latest forecast, released June 18, calls for a Gulf dead zone of between 7,450 and 8,456 square miles—an area about the size of New Jersey.

Most likely, this summer's Gulf dead zone will blanket about 7,980 square miles, roughly the same size as last year's zone, Scavia said. That would put the years 2009, 2008 and 2001 in a virtual tie for second place on the list of the largest Gulf dead zones.

It would also mean that the five largest Gulf dead zones on record have occurred since 2001. The biggest of these oxygen-starved, or hypoxic, regions developed in 2002 and measured 8,484 square miles.

"The growth of these dead zones is an ecological time bomb," said Scavia, a professor at the U-M School of Natural Resources and Environment and director of the U-M Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute.

"Without determined local, regional and national efforts to control them, we are putting major fisheries at risk," said Scavia, who also produces annual dead-zone forecasts for the Chesapeake Bay.

The Gulf dead zone forms each spring and summer off the Louisiana and Texas coast when oxygen levels drop too low to support most life in bottom and near-bottom waters.

The Gulf hypoxia research team is supported by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research and includes scientists from Louisiana State University and the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium.

The forecast for a large 2009 Gulf hypoxic zone is based on above-normal flows in the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers this spring, which delivered large amounts of the nutrient nitrogen. In April and May, flows in the two rivers were 11 percent above average.

Additional flooding of the Mississippi since May could result in a dead zone that exceeds the upper limit of the forecast, the scientists said.

"The high water-volume flows, coupled with nearly triple the nitrogen concentrations in these rivers over the past 50 years from human activities, has led to a dramatic increase in the size of the dead zone," said Gene Turner, a lead forecast modeler at Louisiana State University.

Northeast of the Gulf, low water flows into the Chesapeake Bay shaped Scavia's 2009 forecast for that hypoxia zone.

The Bay's oxygen-starved zone is expected to shrink to between 0.7 and 1.8 cubic miles, with a "most likely" volume of 1.2 cubic miles—the lowest level since 2001 and third-lowest on record. The drop is largely due to a regional dry spell that lasted from January through April, Scavia said. Continued high flows in June, beyond the period used for the forecasts, suggest the actual size may be near the higher end of the forecast range.

"While it's encouraging to see that this year's Chesapeake Bay forecast calls for a significant drop in the extent of the dead zone, we must keep in mind that the anticipated reduction is due mainly to decreased precipitation and water runoff into the Bay," he said.

"The predicted 2009 dead-zone decline does not result from cutbacks in the use of nitrogen, which remains one of the key drivers of hypoxia in the Bay."

Farmland runoff containing fertilizers and livestock waste—some of it from as far away as the Corn Belt—is the main source of the nitrogen and phosphorus that cause the Gulf of Mexico dead zone.

Each year in late spring and summer, these nutrients make their way down the Mississippi River and into the Gulf, fueling explosive algae blooms there. When the algae die and sink, bottom-dwelling bacteria decompose the organic matter, consuming oxygen in the process. The result is an oxygen-starved region in bottom and near-bottom waters: the dead zone.

The same process occurs in the Chesapeake Bay, where nutrients in the Susquehanna River trigger the event. In both the Gulf and the Bay, fish, shrimp and crabs are forced to leave the hypoxic zone. Animals that cannot move perish.

The annual hypoxia forecasts helps coastal managers, policy makers, and the public better understand what causes dead zones. The models that generate the forecasts have been used to determine the nutrient-reduction targets required to reduce the size of the dead zone.

"As with weather forecasts, the Gulf forecast uses multiple models to predict the range of the expected size of the dead zone. The strong track record of these models reinforces our confidence in the link between excess nutrients from the Mississippi River and the dead zone," said Robert Magnien, director of NOAA's Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research.

U.S. Geological Survey data on spring river flow and nutrient concentrations inform the computer models that produce the hypoxia forecasts.

The official size of the 2009 hypoxic zone will be announced following a NOAA-supported monitoring survey led by the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium on July 18-26. In addition, NOAA's Southeast Area Monitoring and Assessment Program's (SEAMAP) is currently providing near real-time data on the hypoxic zone during a five-week summer fish survey in the northern Gulf of Mexico.

Source: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090618124956.htm


Oceanic Defense Calls for an Immediate proclamation to protect all leatherback turtle nesting colonies throughout Trinidad

(stunned man with stunned look poses for photo on the back of a leatherback turtle)

The Trinidadian government is failing the Leatherback Sea Turtle. As a result of funding cuts and lack of political support sea turtles are now being disrupted during their attempts to nest.

Although there are rules in place in relation to what is acceptable behavior in these nesting areas there is not enough enforcement to patrol the 6 miles of beaches each night.

People stream to these (unprotected) beaches to witness one of the most beautiful scenes in nature; the birthing sequence of the leatherback sea turtle. Unfortunately, not all spectators are respectful of the turtles nor show the common sense required to occupy the same stretch of sand.

Nightly, the turtles are being harassed by crowds of people using flash lights and flash photography-both of which can disorient a nesting female or hatchlings. Some people are even carelessly climbing the turtles to take rides. There is also evidence turtles are still being killed by poachers.

People how interfere by blocking, sitting, standing or otherwise abusing these animals should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. And as these types of occurrences become more and more common the only sensible thing to do is shut down the beaches completely during evening hours while the leatherbacks move in and out of the water to deliver their brood.

We at Oceanic Defense believe that areas known to be used for any type of birthing should be strictly regulated and completely free of human interference.

Nesting turtles and their eggs are protected from harm and harassment under the Trinidad and Tobago Fisheries Ordinance, Ch. 25, No. 9 and the Trinidad and Tobago Conservation of Wildlife Act Ch. 67:01.

The country supports more than 80 per cent of all leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) nesting in the insular Caribbean Sea, and is said to be the second largest nesting colony in the world with an estimated 6,000 leatherbacks nesting annually.

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You can help the leatherback sea turtle by voicing your outrage and delivering your message loud and clear to the following Trinidadian news agencies:

GUARDIAN: letters@ttol.co.tt
NEWSDAY: info@newsday.co.tt
EXPRESS: express@trinidadexpress.com

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You may also contact Guptee Lutchmedial, president of the Manatee Conservation Trust and support their cause to protect the leatherback Sea Turtle: Website: http://www.manateetrust.org.tt/
email: manateetrust@yahoo.com

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Contact the Trinidadian government directly and DEMAND that all nesting colonies be immediately declared human free zones:

The Environmental Management Authority:

Head Office
#8 Elizabeth Street, St. Clair, Port of Spain

Tele: (868) 628-8042 / 8044-5
Fax: (868) 628-9122
Email: ema@ema.co.tt

South Office
#2 Dumfries Road
La Romain
Tele: (868) 697-7619

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(160 lbs man crouches on the back of a nesting leatherback sea turtle)

(group interfering with nesting leatherback sea turtle)

(leatherback sea turtle clearly nesting - see sand flinging)

(female carelessly poses for photo on the back of leatherback sea turtle)

(man stands on leatherback sea turtle (with machete in hand - submitted through Twitter)

Source: http://www.trinidadexpress.com/index.pl/article_news?id=161489882

Threats To California's Cordell Bank Marine Sanctuary

ScienceDaily — A new NOAA report on the health of Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary indicates that the overall condition of the sanctuary’s marine life and habitats is fair to good, but identifies several emerging threats to sanctuary resources.

“Global issues of concern such as marine debris, ocean acidification and invasive species have the potential to degrade fragile sanctuary resources and habitats,” said Dan Howard, sanctuary superintendent. “This report provides a baseline for monitoring changes to sanctuary resources and will help us to better understand and respond to these emerging threats.”

Prepared by NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, the peer-reviewed Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary Condition Report indicates that water quality in the sanctuary is generally good due to the sanctuary’s offshore location and distance from major urban population centers. Seafloor habitat quality was rated lower, primarily due to prior impacts from fishing gear that came into contact with the sanctuary’s rocky reef and soft sediment habitats.

The report notes that populations of rockfish, salmon, some seabird species, and leatherback sea turtles that use the sanctuary are depleted, but that fishery closures are helping to rebuild depleted fish stocks.

The report indicates that additional research is needed about contaminants and invasive species. While no maritime archaeological resources have been identified in the sanctuary, only 18 percent of the sanctuary seafloor has been mapped with high resolution tools that could be used to find sunken vessels.

The full sanctuary condition report is now available online. Similar reports are being developed for the other sites in the National Marine Sanctuary System.

Located 42 miles north of San Francisco, Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary is one of 14 marine protected areas managed by NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. Designated by Congress in 1989, the sanctuary’s productive waters are a destination feeding area for local and migratory marine life. Its unique rocky undersea thrives with invertebrates and fishes and is surrounded by the softer sediments of the continental shelf.

Source: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090619112425.htm

Adapted from materials provided by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.


Cocaine haul found hidden in frozen sharks

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico's navy has seized more than a tonne of cocaine stuffed inside frozen sharks, as drug gangs under military pressure go to greater lengths to conceal narcotics bound for the United States.

Armed and masked navy officers cut open more than 20 shark carcasses filled with slabs of cocaine after checking a container ship in a container port in the southern Mexico state of Yucatan, the navy and Mexican media said Tuesday.

"We are talking about more than a tonne of cocaine that was inside the ship," Navy Commander Eduardo Villa told reporters after X-ray machines and sniffer dogs helped uncover the drugs. "Those in charge of the shipment said it was a conserving agent but after checks we confirmed it was cocaine," he said.

Drug gangs are coming up with increasingly creative ways of getting drugs into the United States -- in sealed beer cans, religious statues and furniture -- as Mexico's military cracks down on the cartels moving South American narcotics north.

President Felipe Calderon has sent 45,000 troops and federal police across Mexico to try to crush powerful smuggling cartels. But traffickers armed with a huge arsenal of grenades and automatic weapons are far from defeated, worrying Washington as violence spills over into U.S. states like Arizona.

Some 2,750 people have died in drug violence in Mexico this year, a pace similar to that of 2008, when 6,300 were killed.

Led by Mexico's most wanted man, Joaquin "Shorty" Guzman, smugglers from the Pacific state of Sinaloa are fighting a turf war with rivals. Guzman seeks to control Mexican and Central American smuggling routes into the United States.


Listen up Japan: NZ and Australia announce whale research expedition

New Zealand and Australia have announced a joint Antarctic whale research expedition, saying it will demonstrate to the world that whales do not have to be killed to be studied.

Japan kills hundreds of whales every year for "scientific research" which is condemned internationally.

The research expedition was announced in Wellington today by Foreign Minister Murray McCully, Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith and Australian Environment Minister Peter Garrett.

The expedition will involve six weeks of research early next year using the New Zealand vessel Tangaroa in Antarctic waters.

"New Zealand strongly supports rigorous science to underpin whale management and Tangaroa's voyage will provide an ideal opportunity to obtain high-quality data in the Southern Ocean," Mr McCully said.

The research undertaken by Australian and New Zealand scientists would improve the understanding of the population structure, abundance, trends, distribution and ecological role of whales in the Southern Ocean.

Mr Garrett said the expedition was the largest international, collaborative research project to focus on improving the conservation of whales.

"This expedition, and the ongoing research programme, will demonstrate to the world that we do not need to kill whales to study and understand them."

The ministers said Australia and New Zealand were seeking to reform the management of science within the International Whaling Commission, including an end to "the so-called scientific whaling" and the development of internationally agreed, co-operative management plans.

Source: http://nz.news.yahoo.com/a/-/top-stories/5662853/nz-and-australia-announce-whale-research-expedition/


Oceanic Heros - Ocean Conservancy

Oceanic Defense salutes Ocean Conservancy and their campaign:
International Coastal Cleanup.

It is our goal to work closely with all agencies that promote healthy aquatic ecosystems.

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Rising Acidity Levels Could Trigger Shellfish Revenue Declines, Job Losses

ScienceDaily — Changes in ocean chemistry — a consequence of increased carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from human industrial activity — could cause U.S. shellfish revenues to drop significantly in the next 50 years, according to a new study by researchers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI).

Intensive burning of fossil fuels and deforestation over the last two centuries have increased CO2 levels in the atmosphere by almost 40 percent. The oceans have absorbed about one-third of all human-generated carbon emissions, but the buildup of CO2 in the ocean is pushing surface waters toward more acidic conditions.

This “ocean acidification” creates a corrosive environment for marine organisms such as corals, marine plankton, and shellfish that build carbonate shells or skeletons. Mollusks — including mussels and oysters, which support valuable marine fisheries — are particularly sensitive to these changes.

In a case study of U.S. commercial fishery revenues published in the June issue of Environmental Research Letters, WHOI scientists Sarah Cooley and Scott Doney calculated the possible economic effects of ocean acidification over the next 50 years using atmospheric CO2 trajectories from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and laboratory studies of acidification’s effects on shell-forming marine organisms, focusing especially on mollusks.

Mollusk sales by fishermen currently generate about $750 million per year — nearly 20 percent of total U.S. fisheries revenue. The study assumed that mollusks harvests in the U.S. would drop 10 to 25 percent in 50 years’ time as a result of increasing acidity levels, which would decrease these mollusk sales by $75 to $187 million dollars annually.

“Losses in primary revenue from commercial mollusk harvests—or the money that fisherman receive for their catch—could add up to as much as $1.4 billion by 2060,” said Cooley.

Reduced harvests of mollusks, as well as losses of predatory fish and other species that depend on mollusks for food, could lead to economic hardships for fishing communities.

“Ocean acidification will impact the millions of people that depend on seafood and other ocean resources for their livelihoods,” said Doney. “Losses of crustaceans, bivalves, their predators, and their habitat — in the case of reef-associated fish communities — would particularly injure societies that depend heavily on consumption and export of marine resources.”

Because changes in seawater chemistry are already apparent and will grow over the next few decades, Cooley and Doney suggest measures that focus on adaptation to future CO2 increases to lessen the impact on marine ecosystems, such as flexible fishery management plans and support for fishing communities.

“Limiting nutrient runoff from land helps coastal ecosystems stay healthy,” said Cooley. “Also fishing rules can be adjusted to reduce pressure on valuable species; fisheries managers may set up more marine protected areas, or they may encourage development of new fisheries.”

This research was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Journal reference:

  1. Cooley et al. Anticipating ocean acidification's economic consequences on commercial fisheries. Environmental Research Letters, June 1, 2009; 4 (2): 024007 DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/4/2/024007

Adapted from materials provided by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Source: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090601111948.htm


First Successful Use Of New Ocean Observation Technology – Investigation Of Ocean Acidification In The Baltic Sea

ScienceDaily — For the first time scientists and technicians from the Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences (IFM-GEOMAR) in Kiel, Germany, successfully used an offshore observing system to study environmental changes in the oceans.

The so-called mesocosms resemble oversized test tubes with a length of 20 metres. They are used to simulate the future ocean in situ, i.e. under realistic conditions. IFM-GEOMAR scientists used six of these mesocosms, each encompassing about 60,000 litres of sea water, at the observing station Booknis Eck in the Baltic Sea in order to study the effects of ocean acidification.

Above the sea surface they seem unimpressive: six vertical orange sticks connected by a transparent plastic roof. The dimension of these devices which were installed at Booknis Eck in the western Baltic Sea is revealed under water. A 20 metre long, flexible plastic tube is affixed on a rack that serves for buoyancy and stability of the system. In this tube scientists can isolate about 60 cube metres of seawater under natural conditions in terms of temperature, stratification and ecosystem.

“So far we had studied the impact of changes such as the increase of fertilizers or of the carbon dioxide concentrations in small tanks in the laboratory. The new mesocosms enable us to study the developments under natural and controlled conditions Thus, we can better estimate their impact on the ecosystem,” states project leader Prof. Ulf Riebesell from IFM-GEOMAR.

The first mission of the mesocosms, a technology developed at IFM-GEOMAR, was dedicated to research on the impact of ocean acidification. “The ocean absorbs more than a third of the carbon dioxide produced by human beings. As a consequence the pH-value decreases and the ocean acidificates,” says Prof. Riebesell. Many marine scientists regard this process as equally dangerous as the ocean warming. “Now we want to know how the impact of the acidification on the marine ecosystem looks like,” Riebesell explains. A final assessment of the experiments at Booknis Eck cannot be given yet. But according to Riebesell the experiments were very successful since a large amount of data was generated.

The study was conducted together with partners of the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Bremerhaven, the Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research in Warnemünde, the Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries in Berlin and 19 students from Kiel. It is part of the joint project SOPRAN (Surface Ocean Processes in the Anthropocene) funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research that has also part-financed the development of the worldwide unique mesocosm systems. International parties from the USA and the UK have already expressed interest in the new technology.

The experiment in the Baltic Sea was a test for a large-scale project which will take place off the coast of Svalbard in spring 2010 under the leadership of IFM-GEOMAR with contributions of 15 other European partners in the context of the European project EPOCA (European Project on Ocean Acidification). The main focus will be again the ocean acidification.

A decision on proposals seeking for funding of additional mesocosm experiments in the context of SOPRAN is expected soon.

Source: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090615111618.htm

Adapted from materials provided by Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences (IFM-GEOMAR), via AlphaGalileo.


Tell Congress to Protect the Gulf Coast

Oceana - June 16, 2009
Last week, a Senate committee voted to open millions of acres of the eastern Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas drilling. The measure would allow drilling within 10 miles of Pensacola, and shrink the current 125-mile-wide buffer elsewhere along Florida's west coast to 45 miles. In doing so, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources is undoing an agreement made in 2006 to protect Florida's Gulf Coast.

This move is part of a comprehensive energy bill originally designed to promote the development of renewable energy and reduce the level of climate-changing "greenhouse gases" generated by using oil and gas. However, this and other changes to the bill would undermine those goals.

The oil industry and its friends in Congress seem intent on continuing to drill off of the Florida coast in an area previously protected by an agreement they themselves negotiated and that was supported by conservationists, Republicans, and Democrats alike. They will succeed unless you act now to help. Here is what you can do.
  1. Urge your Member of Congress and Senators to oppose any legislation that calls for more drilling off of Florida's coast.
  2. Urge President Obama to oppose any legislation that calls for more drilling off of Florida's coasts.
Big Oil is offering Americans a "fools bargain" by pretending that more offshore drilling will lead to lower prices at the pump and greater energy security. But the U.S. government's own Energy Information Administration (EIA), reports that "access to Pacific, Atlantic, and eastern Gulf regions would not have a significant impact on domestic crude oil and natural gas production or prices before 2030." Because oil prices are determined on the international market, however, EIA points out that even in 2030, any impact on average price at the pump is expected to be insignificant.

Take Action and tell the President and your representatives in Congress to protect Florida's coasts and oppose more offshore drilling.

Source: http://takeaction.oceana.org/campaign.jsp?campaign_KEY=25214

Please get involved and support our friends at Oceana

33,000 sharks, 2000 dolphins & 2000 turtles killed to boost beach tourism in South Africa

Remove the Nets: Join the Shark Angels' Campaign against Shark Nets!

June 2009

It is difficult to believe in this day in age, with all that we know about sharks' plummeting populations, their critical role in ocean ecosystems and the minimal risk they pose to humans, that the archaic and destructive practice of installing shark nets for "bather protection" still exists. But in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), South Africa, a province ironically known around the world as one of the few places left where sharks and the ecosystems they keep healthy still thrive, untold numbers of harmless sharks, turtles, dolphins, and rays meet an untimely and senseless death each year by entanglement in the approximately 28 kilometres of ‘shark' nets that are installed just off the beaches.

What are shark nets?
Shark nets are essentially gill nets: long rectangular nylon mesh nets, 200-300 metres in length, that are positioned near the surface of the water and kept afloat with buoys. Sharks swim into these nets and are caught by their gills. The squares of mesh are designed to be just large enough for sharks to become entangled, but not escape. The more a shark or any other animal struggles in these nets, the more hopeless their situation becomes, and the more impossible their chances of escape and survival. The vast majority of these animals die an agonizing death by suffocation. Gill nets are widely considered to be one of the greatest threats to the survival of many species of marine animals

33% of sharks in nets were leaving beaches!
In South Africa, the shark nets are installed in tiered patterns by the KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board (KZNSB). Just beneath the surface, they do not fully extend to either the top or the bottom and do not even come close to fully enclosing the beach areas. The result is that sharks can easily swim around or under the nets and into the shallow waters in which humans swim and surf. In fact, the KZNSB acknowledges on its own website that at least 33% of the sharks killed in these nets were actually on their way OUT from the beaches, rather than on their way in, and other sources estimate that this number is closer to 70%.

Bait is set to attract sharks
You see, the goal is not to provide a physical barrier to keep sharks away from the beaches, but rather to control shark populations by culling them. In many cases, the KZNSB places baited drumlines just outside the shark nets, which are designed to attract sharks in towards the beaches and kill them, either by biting the baited hooks on the drumlines or by entanglement in the nearby gill nets.

Nets installed in Marine Protected Areas!
The process is entirely unselective, with nets installed all along the coast, including in Marine Protected Areas! The sole purpose of these nets is to kill all sharks in the area, including highly endangered species that would otherwise enjoy stringent legal protection, such as whale sharks and the great white shark.

According to the KZNSB's own website, "The Marine Living Resources Act (Act 18 of 1998) controls the exploitation of marine plants and animals in South African waters. . . . The great white shark is totally protected; in 1991 South Africa being the first country in the world to do so." And yet, the KZNSB, which is governed by the KZN Department of Arts, Culture and Tourism, is exempted from these important conservation regulations in the interest of making tourists feel safe.

Brutal, indiscriminate killers
Sea Shepherd's Director of Shark Conservation, Kim McCoy, a founding member of the Shark Angels alliance, was outraged to witness first-hand the carnage caused by South African shark nets. "Sharks and other animals don't stand a chance against these nets," said McCoy. "They are brutal, indiscriminate killers designed to systematically cull a species for no other reason than to boost tourism by giving beachgoers a false sense of security against a severely sensationalized threat."

Shark tourism
Shark Angels co-founder, Julie Andersen, who frequently leads groups of people on diving trips with the tiger sharks of Aliwal Shoal, clearly illustrates the irony of using shark nets to increase tourism, noting the number of tourists who come to South Africa each year specifically to dive with sharks. "Sharks in South Africa contribute a significant amount of revenue to the South African economy and provide countless jobs," said Andersen. "Live sharks mean tourists, jobs, and money. And that is recurring income-not the one-time income generated when a shark is killed."

33,000 sharks, 200 turtles, 8000 rays and 2000 dolphins killed in shark nets
Over the last three decades, more than 33,000 sharks have been killed in the KZNSB shark nets. And if that's not alarming enough, 2,000+ turtles, 8,000+ rays, and 2,000+ dolphins were also ensnared and killed.

In addition to the countless deaths of sharks and other species caused directly by the shark nets, their impact on our collective psyches is damaging to shark conservation efforts worldwide. The very existence of shark nets perpetuates the myth that sharks are bloodthirsty man-eaters, and that humans require some form of protection from them. The installation of shark nets reinforces our misguided and often irrational fears of sharks by legitimizing these concerns as valid. This in turn fuels the biggest issue faced in shark conservation: the public's apathy, or even loathing, towards sharks.

It could be said there was once a time and a place for shark nets. Perhaps decades ago, when the public knew little about sharks, the fear of shark attacks was running high, and shark populations were far healthier than they are today. The practice of installing shark nets in South Africa began in 1952, when little was known about sharks, and humans had yet to spend the next 50+ years ravaging our oceans, causing irreparable damage and the collapse of species after species. The public wanted "protection" from sharks, and shark nets served this purpose.

Shark populations endangered
But since then, shark fishing has skyrocketed, eliminating a large percentage of the world's shark populations, and the public has been exposed to much information about the importance of biodiversity conservation and the true nature of shark behaviour towards humans. In recent years, it has been proven that a variety of non-lethal shark deterrents, such as the Shark Spotters program funded by private donations and the City of Cape Town, can be equally effective, and that animals need not be killed to allow for peaceful coexistence in their domain. The need for shark conservation is now a well-established fact, as is the fact these animals are significantly misunderstood, with the actual risk of an unpleasant shark encounter infinitesimal.

Shark nets are an unnecessary and outdated practice designed to address an issue that could easily be tackled in a non-lethal way, and they blemish South Africa's image as a world leader in conservation. It is time for a change. It is time to get these shark nets out of the water, once and for all.

Source: http://www.wildlifeextra.com//go/news/shark-nets.html

Shellfish Face An Uncertain Future In High Carbon Dioxide World

ScienceDaily — Overfishing and disease have decimated shellfish populations in many of the world's temperate estuarine and coastal ecosystems. Smithsonian scientists, led by Whitman Miller, ecologist at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater, Md., have discovered another serious threat to these valuable filter feeders—rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide that contribute to the acidification of open ocean, coastal and estuarine waters.

Their findings are being published in PLoS One.

For shellfish and other organisms that have calcium carbonate shells and structures, the problem begins when atmospheric CO2 dissolves in seawater and creates carbonic acid that is then rapidly transformed into carbonate and bicarbonate ions in the water. Increased acidity tips the balance toward bicarbonate formation and away from carbonate. Less carbonate in the water means that shellfish have fewer building blocks to generate their shells. If the water is acidic enough, shells can even begin to dissolve.

"Estuarine and coastal ecosystems may be especially vulnerable to changes in water chemistry caused by elevated CO2 because their relative shallowness, reduced salinity and lower alkalinity makes them inherently less buffered to changes in pH than in the open ocean," said Miller. For many calcifying organisms, CO2-induced acidification poses a serious challenge because these organisms may experience reduced rates of growth and calcification that "when combined with other environmental stresses, could spell disaster."

Larval oysters are thought to be particularly susceptible to acidification since larvae produce shells made of aragonite, a crystalline form of calcium carbonate that is prone to erosion at low pH. Adult oysters continue to build shell but generate calcite, a more durable form of calcium carbonate. In Miller's study, the larvae of Eastern oysters (Crassostrea virginica) and Suminoe oysters (Crassostrea ariakensis) were cultured in estuarine water that was held at four separate CO2 concentrations, reflecting atmospheric conditions from the pre-industrial era, the present, and those predicted in the coming 50 and 100 years. To test the effects of acidification, Miller monitored their growth and measured the amounts of calcium carbonate deposited in larval shells over the course of one month.

Miller and his team found that Eastern oysters experienced a 16 percent decrease in shell area and a 42 percent reduction in calcium content when specimens in the pre-industrial CO2 treatment were compared with those exposed to the levels predicted for the year 2100. Surprisingly, the closely related Suminoe oysters from Asia showed no change to either growth or calcification.

The results reported suggest that the impacts of acidification may be tied to a species' unique evolutionary history and environmental setting, implying that predictions may be more complex than previously thought. "In the Chesapeake Bay, oysters are barely holding on, where disease and overfishing have nearly wiped them out. Whether acidification will push Eastern oysters, and the many species that depend on them, beyond a critical tipping point remains to be seen" said Miller.

With numbers so critically low—the oyster population in the Chesapeake Bay today stands at just 2 percent of what it was in colonial times—future losses could have dire consequences, both environmentally and economically. Indeed, the recently enacted Federal Ocean Acidification Research and Monitoring Act of 2009 recognizes the urgent need to begin addressing impacts of acidification on estuaries and their biota.

With the continued burning of fossil fuels, further acidification is unavoidable. Miller's team is keenly interested in what the biological and ecological responses will be in order to better inform current and future environmental restoration efforts. "In a high CO2 world, calcifying organisms may well begin to lose out to competition with non-calcifiers, a situation that could fundamentally change benthic communities. Understanding how such changes may play out in estuaries and coastal waters, which teem with calcifying biota, and which are also the centers of many commercial fisheries and human activities, seems especially urgent" said Miller.

Funding for this research was provided by the Seward Johnson Endowment provided through the Smithsonian Marine Science Network as well as federal appropriations made to the Smithsonian Institution.

Journal reference:
  1. Miller et al. Shellfish Face Uncertain Future in High CO2 World: Influence of Acidification on Oyster Larvae Calcification and Growth in Estuaries. PLoS ONE, 2009; 4 (5): e5661 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0005661
Adapted from materials provided by Public Library of Science, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

'Jellyfish Joyride' A Threat To The Oceans

ScienceDaily — Early action could be crucial to addressing the problem of major increases in jellyfish numbers, which appears to be the result of human activities.

New research led by CSIRO Climate Adaptation Flagship and University of Queensland scientist, Dr Anthony Richardson, presents convincing evidence that this ’jellyfish joyride’ is associated with over-fishing and excess nutrients from fertilisers and sewage.

“Dense jellyfish aggregations can be a natural feature of healthy ocean ecosystems, but a clear picture is now emerging of more severe and frequent jellyfish outbreaks worldwide,” Dr Richardson says.

“In recent years, jellyfish blooms have been recorded in the Mediterranean, the Gulf of Mexico, the Black and Caspian Seas, the Northeast US coast, and particularly in Far East coastal waters.

“The most dramatic have been the outbreaks in the Sea of Japan involving the gargantuan Nomura jellyfish which can grow up to 2 m in diameter and weigh 200 kg.”

The new research, by Dr Richardson and colleagues at the University of Miami, Swansea University and the University of the Western Cape, has been published in the international journal; Trends in Ecology and Evolution, in time for World Oceans Day on 8 June.

“Fish normally keep jellyfish in check through competition and predation but overfishing can destroy that balance,” Dr Richardson says. “For example, off Namibia intense fishing has decimated sardine stocks and jellyfish have replaced them as the dominant species.”

Climate change may favour some jellyfish species by increasing the availability of flagellates in surface waters – a key jellyfish food source. Warmer oceans could also extend the distribution of many jellyfish species.

“Mounting evidence suggests that open-ocean ecosystems can flip from being dominated by fish, to being dominated by jellyfish,” Dr Richardson says “This would have lasting ecological, economic and social consequences.

“We need to start managing the marine environment in a holistic and precautionary way to prevent more examples of what could be termed a ‘jellyfish joyride’.”

Journal reference:
  1. Richardson et al. The jellyfish joyride: causes, consequences and management responses to a more gelatinous future. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 2009; 24 (6): 312 DOI: 10.1016/j.tree.2009.01.010
Adapted from materials provided by CSIRO Australia.


SHARKS KILL PEOPLE - Through Methyl Mercury Poisoning

Ok, granted, the title of this article is a little over the top I confess. The fact of the matter is we as people are much more dangerous to sharks than they are to us...unless we eat them. Shark meat has some of the highest concentrations of methyl mercury know to cause birth defects and neurological problems.

The consequences of such a poisoning are for an infant mental development disturbances and for an adult heavy damage to the central nervous system. These express themselves by headache, memory difficulties or depressions." Besides kidney damages, cancer and massive damages of the brain threatens.

For a long time it was assumed and now it is certain: Shark meat is poisonous!! By a new method of analysis, patented by Professor Klaus Heumann of the University of Mainz (Germany), alarming concentrations of methyl mercury were found in shark steaks.

A study - given by the shark protection organization Sharkproject - proved that there is up to 1400 microgram of methyl mercury per kilogram blue shark steak. These are 420 microgram of methyl mercury in a normal 300 gram shark steak portion and this is 60 times more than a 70 kg heavy consumer per day may have.
The danger value is 0.1 microgram per kilogram body weight and day. This value was specified by EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) in a toxicologist committee and is considered as new international standard. A consumer might take only 5 gram blue shark steak or 12.7 gram of smoked rock salmon (smoked dogfish) per day. Each higher dose can have serious consequences.

Methyl mercury is most dangerous for the human body. Toxicologist Dr. Hermann Kruse of the University of Kiel (Germany) explains why: "It is one of the biologically most active and most dangerous poisons for humans. In addition methyl mercury is a "Trojan horse" which can pass easily each protection barrier as to the separation mechanism between the blood circulation of a mother and her unborn child as well as the blood-brain barrier of each adult.

Who thinks that a smoked rock salmon (smoked dogfish) or a small blue shark steak from the food discounter now and then is not precarious is wrong because the half-life of methyl mercury is high. The human organism needs 60 to 80 days to halve the poison concentration in the body.

But not only sharks are affected by this heavy metal load. The same applies to all large predatory fish who take up the poison over their natural food chain. For example also tuna and swordfish count for this.

The management of the German fish restaurant chain North Sea already reacted to the arguments of the animal conservationist organization and wants to go completely without any shark products. These results also would have to alarm now the food branch and the Ministries of Health.
Best would be if everyone stopped immediately buying and consuming all kind of shark products and stopped the consumption of tuna and swordfish.

(Source: "Tauchen"-Magazine and Sharkproject)


Plastic bag research turns into shark story

(very poor quality camera phone picture taken by Oceanic Defense)

Plastic Bags Turns Into Shark Story
by: Oceanic Defense

Costa Mesa, California
This weekend members of Oceanic Defense toured local grocery chains on the west coast of California observing customer behavior and the usage of plastic bags vs. reusable canvas. We are collecting data for an upcoming campaign in response to The Great Pacific Garbage Patch series we have been running lately.

As we do with most of our tours we take a quick trip through the sea food section to see if there are any questionable items for sale and talk to the staff.

Today as we were finishing our data collection at Albertson's located on Harbor Blvd in Costa Mesa, CA I ducked into the sea food department to find shark in their refrigerator case: "Fresh Thresher Shark Steaks $5.99/LBS" (see photo above).

I asked the clerk behind the counter about the sale of shark meat. He was very friendly and said they did sell a bit of it and asked if I had ever tried it? To which I answered "absolutely not sharks are endangered." He didn't know where the sharks came from or how they were caught. I again told him that sharks are endangered and they shouldn't be selling any sort of shark products. He was surprised to hear the stats and looked and acted genuinely concerned.

About Thresher Sharks
Thresher shark populations have dropped more than 67%. Their numbers are considered "data deficient" by the World Conservation Union (IUCN)

Data Deficient means there is inadequate information to make a direct, or indirect, assessment of its risk of extinction based on its distribution and/or population status. This species is on its way to recovery in waters off the coast of California due largely to fishery management measures and is now considered "Near Threatened" in this region. Outside the US, threshers continue to be one of the many sharks heavily fished and finned.

If conclusive information is not available to prove sustainability of the Thresher Shark it should be removed from ALL stores until proven otherwise. Near Threatened status should be considered off limits until sustainable numbers can be accurately reported.

Oceanic Defense will be contacting Albertson's on Monday morning and requesting that they remove all shark products from every store and show the community that they are indeed responsible corporate citizens?

Albertson's website says: "Being a good corporate citizen is an ongoing responsibility."

We will find out shortly.

Contact information:
You may contact the store involved directly in the sale of shark:

Costa Mesa, CA 92626
(949) 515-7227

Contact Albertson's corporate directly

Ocean of Plastic

  • some areas of the ocean contain 30 times more plastic than plankton.
  • 1,000,000 plastic shopping bags are used each minute globally.
  • residual plastics are now being found in humans because we consume contaminated fish.
  • The Great Pacific Garbage Patch floats between The USA and Japan and is 2 times the size of Texas. Some portions of the patch are 90 feet thick.

U.N. environment chief urges global ban on plastic bags

WASHINGTON — Single-use plastic bags, a staple of American life, have got to go, the United Nations' top environmental official said Monday.

Although recycling bags is on the rise in the United States, an estimated 90 billion thin bags a year, most used to handle produce and groceries, go unrecycled. They were the second most common form of litter after cigarette butts at the 2008 International Coastal Cleanup Day sponsored by the Ocean Conservancy, a marine environmental group.

"Single use plastic bags which choke marine life, should be banned or phased out rapidly everywhere. There is simply zero justification for manufacturing them anymore, anywhere," said Achim Steiner, executive director of the U.N. Environment Programme. His office advises U.N. member states on environmental policies.

Steiner's declaration accompanied a UNEP report that identifies plastic as the most pervasive form of ocean litter. According to the report, "Plastic, the most prevalent component of marine debris, poses hazards because it persists so long in the ocean, degrading into tinier and tinier bits that can be consumed by the smallest marine life at the base of the food web."

The ban is already being tested in China, where retailers giving out thin bags can be fined up to $1,464. According to one nationwide survey, 40 billion fewer plastic bags were given out in grocery stores after the law's enactment. In addition, Ireland managed to cut single-use plastic bag consumption 90 percent by levying a fee on each bag that consumers use.

In the United States, only San Francisco has completely banned plastic bags. Los Angeles will do so in 2010. Also, Washington, D.C.'s city council is set to vote on a five-cent-a-bag tax later this month. On first reading, the bill passed unanimously. Similar proposals have failed in New York and Philadelphia.

Keith Christman, senior director for the plastics division of the American Chemistry Council, responded that the term "single-use" is misleading because most people actually reuse plastic bags, "for example, to line their trash cans."

"A ban on plastic bags could also cause some unintended consequences," he said. In particular, the increased demand for paper bags would double greenhouse emissions and create "a dramatic increase in waste," Christman said.

Leading U.S. plastic bag manufacturers aim to increase the recycled content of plastic bags to 40 percent by 2015, he added. That would reduce plastic waste by 300 million pounds a year.

"Recycling is what we see as the best approach for the U.S.," Christman said. "Plastic is just too valuable to waste."

Source: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/251/story/69691.html



The oceans, our coasts, and the Great Lakes provide jobs, food, energy resources, ecological services, recreation, and tourism opportunities, and play critical roles in our Nation's transportation, economy, and trade, as well as the global mobility of our Armed Forces and the maintenance of international peace and security. We have a stewardship responsibility to maintain healthy, resilient, and sustainable oceans, coasts, and Great Lakes resources for the benefit of this and future generations.

Yet, the oceans, coasts, and Great Lakes are subject to substantial pressures and face significant environmental challenges. Challenges include water pollution and degraded coastal water quality caused by industrial and commercial activities both onshore and offshore, habitat loss, fishing impacts, invasive species, disease, rising sea levels, and ocean acidification. Oceans both influence and are affected by climate change. They not only affect climate processes but they are also under stress from the impacts of climate change. Renewable energy, shipping, and aquaculture are also expected to place growing demands on ocean and Great Lakes resources. These resources therefore require protection through the numerous Federal, State, and local authorities with responsibility and jurisdiction over the oceans, coasts, and Great Lakes.

To succeed in protecting the oceans, coasts, and Great Lakes, the United States needs to act within a unifying framework under a clear national policy, including a comprehensive, ecosystem-based framework for the longterm conservation and use of our resources.

In order to better meet our Nation's stewardship responsibilities for the oceans, coasts, and Great Lakes, there is established an Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force (Task Force), to be led by the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality. The Task Force shall be composed of senior policy-level officials from the executive departments, agencies, and offices represented on the Committee on Ocean Policy established by section 3 of Executive Order 13366 of December 17, 2004. This Task Force is not meant to duplicate that structure, but rather is intended to be a temporary entity with the following responsibilities:

1. Within 90 days from the date of this memorandum, the Task Force shall develop recommendations that include:

  1. A national policy that ensures the protection, maintenance, and restoration of the health of ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes ecosystems and resources, enhances the sustainability of ocean and coastal economies, preserves our maritime heritage, provides for adaptive management to enhance our understanding of and capacity to respond to climate change, and is coordinated with our national security and foreign policy interests. The recommendations should prioritize upholding our stewardship responsibilities and ensuring accountability for all of our actions affecting ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes resources, and be consistent with international law, including customary international law as reflected in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
  2. A United States framework for policy coordination of efforts to improve stewardship of the oceans, our coasts, and the Great Lakes. The Task Force should review the Federal Government's existing policy coordination framework to ensure integration and collaboration across jurisdictional lines in meeting the objectives of a national policy for the oceans, our coasts, and the Great Lakes. This will include coordination with the work of the National Security Council and Homeland Security Council as they formulate and coordinate policy involving national and homeland security, including maritime security. The framework should also address specific recommendations to improve coordination and collaboration among Federal, State, tribal, and local authorities, including regional governance structures.
  3. An implementation strategy that identifies and prioritizes a set of objectives the United States should pursue to meet the objectives of a national policy for the oceans, our coasts, and the Great Lakes.

2. Within 180 days from the date of this memorandum, the Task Force shall develop, with appropriate public input, a recommended framework for effective coastal and marine spatial planning. This framework should be a comprehensive, integrated, ecosystem-based approach that addresses conservation, economic activity, user conflict, and sustainable use of ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes resources consistent with international law, including customary international law as reflected in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

3. The Task Force shall terminate upon the completion of its duties.

The Task Force's recommendations and frameworks should be cost effective and improve coordination across Federal agencies.

This memorandum covers matters involving the oceans, the Great Lakes, the coasts of the United States (including its territories and possessions), and related seabed, subsoil, and living and non-living resources.

This memorandum is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person. Nothing in this memorandum shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, regulatory, and legislative proposals.

The Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality is hereby authorized and directed to publish this memorandum in the Federal Register.