The tiny Pacific nation of Palau is creating the world's first shark sanctuary, a biological hotspot to protect Great Hammerheads, Leopard Sharks, Oceanic Whitetip Sharks and more than 130 other species fighting extinction in the Pacific Ocean.
Author: Jennifer Maclellan
I bet you thought this was going to be about some military operation destroying the habitat of an endangered species; if so prepare to be happily mistaken. The situation is quite the contrary as the Mexican Navy Patrols have moved in to protect the nesting grounds of the endangered Golfina or Olive Ridley Turtles as they begin laying their eggs on what is described by locals and scientists alike as the ‘most important beach for marine turtle nesting in the world.”
Each year thousands of turtles arrive on the beach at Oaxaca, Mexico to begin nesting. This year federal and local authorities have been deployed to protect the turtles and their eggs from poachers. As officials patrol the grounds at least 5 biologists record the number of nests and number of eggs in each. Last year the turtles left roughly 1.3 million eggs in the beach and researchers expect the same thing this year.
They come in waves throughout the nesting season which can range from June until December. Each wave can bring anywhere from 50-thousand to 70-thousand turtles. Because of conservation efforts and protective measures such as the military presence, the populations of the Golfina have increased and they are now classified as vulnerable. While many other species of turtle remain on the endangered list the Golfina has seen a resurgence and acts as a concrete example of possibilities.
Like many species of turtle the Golfina was hunted for decades. Its eggs were taken for food or sold. In 1990 a law was passed that banned the hunting and sale of turtle meat in Mexico and they now work towards public information campaigns that discourage poaching.
Those who once hunted and sold turtle meat in Mexico are now employed as guides leading tours of the Pacific to view the turtles in their natural habitat. As is the case with all animals, protecting their interests can be far more profitable.
How Mercury Emissions Reach Tuna And Other Seafood, And Why Mercury Contamination Is Likely To Worsen
ScienceDaily — A new landmark study documents for the first time the process in which increased mercury emissions from human sources across the globe, and in particular from Asia, make their way into the North Pacific Ocean and as a result contaminate tuna and other seafood. Because much of the mercury that enters the North Pacific comes from the atmosphere, scientists have predicted an additional 50 percent increase in mercury in the Pacific by 2050 if mercury emission rates continue as projected.
“This unprecedented USGS study is critically important to the health and safety of the American people and our wildlife because it helps us understand the relationship between atmospheric emissions of mercury and concentrations of mercury in marine fish,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. “We have always known that mercury can pose a risk, now we need to reduce the mercury emissions so that we can reduce the ocean mercury levels.”
"This study gives us a better understanding of how dangerous levels of mercury move into our air, our water, and the food we eat, and shines new light on a major health threat to Americans and people all across the world,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “With this information in hand, plus our own mercury efforts, we have an even greater opportunity to continue working with our international partners to significantly cut mercury pollution in the years ahead and protect the health of millions of people.”
Water sampling cited in the study shows that mercury levels in 2006 were approximately 30 percent higher than those measured in the mid-1990s. This study documents for the first time the formation of methylmercury in the North Pacific Ocean. It shows that methylmercury is produced in mid-depth ocean waters by processes linked to the “ocean rain.” Algae, which are produced in sunlit waters near the surface, die quickly and “rain” downward to greater water depths. At depth, the settling algae are decomposed by bacteria and the interaction of this decomposition process in the presence of mercury results in the formation of methylmercury. Many steps up the food chain later, predators like tuna receive methylmercury from the fish they consume.
One unexpected finding from this study is the significance of long-range transport of mercury within the ocean that originates in the western Pacific Ocean, off the coast of Asia.
“Mercury researchers typically look skyward to find a mercury source from the atmosphere due to emissions from land-based combustion facilities. In this study, however, the pathway of the mercury was a little different. Instead, it appears the recent mercury enrichment of the sampled Pacific Ocean waters is caused by emissions originating from fallout near the Asian coasts. The mercury-enriched waters then enter a long-range eastward transport by large ocean circulation currents,” said USGS scientist and coauthor David Krabbenhoft.
Scientists sampled Pacific Ocean water from 16 different sites between Honolulu, Hawaii and Kodiak, Alaska. In addition, the scientists constructed a computer simulation that links atmospheric emissions, transport and deposition of mercury, and an ocean circulation model.
In the United States, about 40 percent of all human exposure to mercury is from tuna harvested in the Pacific Ocean, according to Elsie Sunderland, a coauthor of the study. Methylmercury is a highly toxic form of mercury that rapidly accumulates in the food chain to levels that can cause serious health concerns for those who consume the seafood. Pregnant women who consume mercury can pass on life-long developmental effects to their children. That is why in 2004 EPA and FDA issued the landmark Joint Guidance on the Consumption of Fish specifically targeted towards pregnant women and nursing mothers. Previous studies show that 75 percent of human exposure worldwide to mercury is from the consumption of marine fish and shell fish.
Scientists have known for some time that mercury deposited from the atmosphere to freshwater ecosystems can be transformed (methylated) into methylmercury, but identifying the analogous cycles in marine systems has remained elusive. As a result of this study we now know more about how the process which leads to the transformation of mercury into methylmercury.
In addition to USGS mercury expert David Krabbenhoft, the authors include Elsie Sunderland, Harvard University; John Moreau, University of Melbourne, Australia (until recently a USGS, NRC Post Doctoral Candidate); William Landing, Florida State University; and Sarah Strode, Harvard University.
ScienceDaily — In the open ocean, species of large predatory fish will swim and hunt for food at various depths, which leads to unique diets in these fish. Oceanographers and geologists in the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa (UHM) and colleagues have found that those fish that hunt deeper in the open ocean have higher mercury concentrations than those that feed near the surface of the ocean because their deep water food has higher mercury.
This research was detailed in the August 18th early edition of the prestigous journal the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Mercury is a naturally-occurring trace element distributed throughout the Earth's oceans, land and air. The general public is interested in mercury levels in fish because the organic form, methylmercury, can be toxic at elevated levels if ingested by humans and animals.Mercury enters open ocean food webs, where it bioaccumulates, leading to higher levels in large predatory animals.
Researchers looking at mercury levels in the open ocean have indicated that deeper waters have elevated levels relative to the surface waters. "Building on this information, we thought that deeper-dwelling open ocean animals might have more mercury, as well as the predatory fishes that feed on them," says Anela Choy, a Department of Oceanography Graduate Student at UHM and lead author in this study. This was indeed the case, and the results of their work show that large pelagic fish like bigeye tuna and swordfish that feed deeper in the ocean have elevated total mercury levels relative to their shallower-dwelling counterparts like yellowfin tuna and mahi-mahi. "We show that this is because the food items that they eat also have varying levels of mercury", continues Choy. "Deeper-living micronekton prey (small fishes, squids, and crustaceans) have higher mercury levels relative to more surface-dwelling prey animals. This is important knowledge for scientists studying animals in the open ocean because it helps them to understand how energy and matter cycle, as well as show who is eating who in the vast, blue water environment. Although not the focus of this study, the results may also help provide information to the fish-consuming public on mercury levels in popular commercial species."
To study the mechanisms governing bioaccumulation in open ocean fish, the researchers, who also included Brian N. Popp and Jeffrey C. Drazen, also from UHM, and John Kaneko from the Honolulu company PacMar Inc, collected nine predatory pelagic fish species with different diets in waters surrounding Hawaiʻi, along with a representation of the types of prey these fishes eat. The predatory fish collected represented a wide variety of depths at which they search for food, varying from shallow-ranging predators (0 – 300 meters) to deep-ranging predators (up to 1000 meters). Total mercury levels of these fish were measured, along with an analysis of animals in their stomachs. The authors found that while the sex of a fish and the location where a fish was caught d! id not a ffect mercury concentrations, the size, age and species of fish did. However, for similar sized fish of different species, deeper-ranging predators still had more mercury than shallow-ranging ones. This study shows for the first time, that in addition to the size and age of a fish, or where it swims/lives, that the depth at which a fish feeds influences the amount of mercury it has in it's tissues.
"After looking more closely at these different mid-water prey organisms, a number of interesting questions have opened up," says Choy. "As these organisms are the primary food items for large pelagic fishes that humans like to eat, we need to understand more about how they fit into the open ocean ecosystem in order to sustainably manage our fish populations."
It is important to understand that ocean biology is connected across depths by the movements and hunting behaviors of animals. "The deep sea is remote, hard to study, and often ignored but our results clearly show how its biology is directly connected to human interests, both fishing and health," says Drazen. "Some of the fishes we enjoy at the dinner table grew on a diet of strange and exotic creatures from 1000s of feet deep in the ocean."
The original research was funded by University of Hawaiʻi Sea Grant College Program at UHM, the State of Hawaiʻi, JIMAR (Pelagic Fisheries Research Program (PFRP)), and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. The need for a detailed study came after Popp attended a PFRP meeting on the UHM campus and he saw a data table from the State Department of Health of mercury concentrations in Hawaiian pelagic fishes that was published in the newspaper The Honolulu Advertiser. "The table was very crude showing only the average and range of mercury contents in each fish," says Popp." The fishes were listed from lowest m! ercury a t the top and highest mercury at the bottom -- it hit me that the order in the list roughly followed the depth the fish are typically caught in the ocean." Fortunately for Popp and Drazen, Choy, who had completed her undergraduate degree and was doing consulting work within the local seafood industry, and was also interested in this topic. Says Choy, "after interacting with the public, I found that many people were concerned with mercury levels in fish, and I eventually became interested in the oceanographic/ecological aspect of it."
The researchers have recently received funding from the Pelagic Fisheries Research Program, within the Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research (JIMAR) at UHM to continue using mercury, along with other chemical tracers to elucidate the structure and function of the open ocean food web in Hawaiian waters. Concludes Choy, "We hope this will provide crucial information for ecosystem-based fishery managers and ecosystem modelers."
A sharply divided European Union failed Tuesday to protect the threatened bluefin tuna, as the bloc's Mediterranean nations refused to back even a temporary a ban on catching the fish prized by sushi aficionados.
The EU's executive commission urged EU governments to agree to a temporary ban until the stocks recovered but Greece, Cyprus, Malta, Spain, France and Italy — with strong fishermen's lobbies at home — insisted on continuing the hunt despite the precarious state of the species.
For environmentalists, the move means a further step toward the bluefin tuna's commercial extinction.
"They are pushing tuna to the point of no return," said Xavier Pastor of the Oceana protection group. "It is deplorable that the EU member states who are mostly responsible for the depletion of bluefin tuna stocks refused to agree to a measure that would have helped to reverse the situation."
The EU Commission had hoped the 27-nation bloc could take a united stand at the next meeting of the ICCAT group of nations managing the global stock. Pushing through a ban on fishing bluefin tuna at the group's Nov. 6-15 meeting in Recife, Brazil, now looks unlikely.
"ICCAT members have to realize that the very future of this iconic stock depends on it," said EU Fisheries Commissioner Joe Borg.
Stocks of the threatened bluefin, which have been hunted since Roman times in the Mediterranean, have dwindled for years, with Japan taking some 80 percent of bluefin exports to satisfy demands for the finest raw fish ingredient.
The tuna's uncertain status has driven up prices and prompted fishermen to sidestep stringent quotas to fish illegally for big profits.
Tuna weighing up to 1,100 pounds (500 kilograms) were once found in the Mediterranean, but large fish are now a rarity. Nowadays, fishermen often catch very small tuna before they can reproduce, placing them in cages to be fattened until they are big enough for sale.
The quota for catches was lowered from 28,500 tons to 22,000 this year but scientists still say that is 7,000 tons over what they would advise. A decade ago, 50,000 tons of the fatty, deep-red tuna was hauled in.
Groups like Oceana say illegal fishing has doubled the amount of tuna caught. When the 2007 quota was set at 29,500 tons, Oceana estimates that real catches stood at some 60,000 tons.
Oceana estimates some 45,000 tons of bluefin could be fished sustainably each year if tuna stocks were allowed to recover.
Conservation groups had earlier criticized the EU for not pushing to list the bluefin tuna under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.
By RAF CASERT Associated Press Writer
BRUSSELS September 22, 2009 (AP)
When a whale dies, it sinks to the seafloor and becomes food for an entire ecosystem. Researchers have discovered previously unknown species that feed only on dead whales - and use DNA technology to show that the species diversity in our oceans may be higher than previously thought. (Credit: Craig R Smith)
ScienceDaily — When a whale dies, it sinks to the seafloor and becomes food for an entire ecosystem. Researchers at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have discovered previously unknown species that feed only on dead whales -- and have used DNA technology to show that the species diversity in our oceans may be higher than previously thought.
Dead whales constitute an unpredictable food source - it is impossible to know when and where a whale is going to die, and when it does, the food source does not last forever. Nevertheless, some marine species have specialised in feeding on whale cadavers.
Big source of nutrients
This is shown by researchers at the University of Gothenburg who have studied the ecosystem around dead whales using underwater cameras. A dead whale is an enormous source of nutrients. In fact, one cadaver offers the same amount of nutrients that normally sinks from the surface to the seafloor in 2000 years, and this is of great benefit to innumerable species: First the meat is eaten by for example sharks and hagfish, then tremendous amounts of various organisms come to feast on the skeleton.
One group of animals commonly found on whale skeletons is bristleworms, which are related to the earthworm. Some bristleworm species are so specialised in eating dead whales they would have problems surviving elsewhere. One example is Osedax, which uses its root system to penetrate the whale bones when searching for food. Other species specialise in eating the thick layers of bacteria that quickly form around the bones.
Nine new species
A dissertation from the Department of Zoology at the University of Gothenburg describes no fewer than nine previously unknown species of these bacteria-grazing bristleworms.
Four of the new species were found on whale cadavers placed at a depth of 125 metres in the new national park Kosterhavet off the coast of Strömstad, Sweden. The other five species feed on whale bones in the deep waters off the coast of California, USA. The family tree of bristleworms was explored using molecular data. The DNA analyses show that there are several so-called cryptic bristleworm species, meaning species that despite looking identical differ very much genetically.
The analyses show that the adaptation to a life on whale cadavers has occurred in species from different evolutionary paths and at several points in time. The study also shows that some species that are assumed to inhabit many different areas globally, so-called cosmopolitan species, may in fact be cryptic species. This finding may be very significant for our understanding of how animals spread around the world and of how many different species dwell on our planet.
ScienceDaily — Scientists from the Universities of Exeter and Plymouth are calling for urgent research to understand the impact of renewable energy developments on marine life. The study, now published in the Journal of Applied Ecology, highlights potential environmental benefits and threats resulting from marine renewable energy, such as off-shore wind farms and wave and tidal energy conversion devices.
The research highlights the capacity for marine renewable energy devices to boost local biodiversity and benefit the wider marine environment. Man-made structures on the sea bed attract many marine organisms and sometimes become 'artifical reefs', for example, supporting a wide variety of fish. The study also points out that such devices could have negative environmental impacts, resulting from habitat loss, collision risks, noise and electromagnetic fields.
The study highlights the gaps in our understanding of the effects of marine renewable energy devices on the health of our oceans. The team calls for more research to improve our understanding of these threats and opportunities. The researchers also stress the importance of considering the impact on marine life when selecting locations for the installation of marine energy devices.
Corresponding author Dr Brendan Godley of the University of Exeter said: "Marine renewable energy is hugely exciting and it is vital that we explore the potential for it to provide a clean and sustainable energy source. However, to date research into the impact of marine renewable energy on sea life has been very limited. . Our study highlights the urgent need for more research into the impacts of marine renewable energy on marine life. This will involve biologists, engineers and policy-makers working together to ensure we really understand the risks and opportunities for marine life."
Professor Martin Attrill, Director of the University of Plymouth Marine Institute said: "Our paper highlights the need to take a fresh look at the effect marine renewable energy generation has on the environment if we are to deliver a higher proportion of energy from renewable sources and start to combat climate change. We need to have the industry working directly with conservation bodies to plan the next phase of development. We suggest further research could demonstrate the potential of security zones around, for example, wave farms to act as Marine Protected Areas. Therefore, if all stakeholders can work together in a coordinated way we can possibly address two key issues - combating climate change and creating a network of MPAs. We need the research on environmental impact to help move the whole field forward."
This study was carried out by PRIMaRE (the Peninsula Research Institute for Marine Renewable Energy), a joint £15 million institute for research into harnessing the energy from the sea bringing together the technology and marine expertise of the Universities of Exeter and Plymouth.
ScienceDaily — The governments of Norway and Japan are using taxpayer money to subsidize their unprofitable whaling industries, according to a first-time analysis of the economics of whaling.
The report, "Sink or Swim: The Economics of Whaling Today" found that Norway and Japan provide commercial whalers with huge government subsidies—even though killing whales is unlikely to ever be profitable without taxpayer support.
"In this time of global economic crisis, the use of valuable tax dollars to prop up what is basically an economically unviable industry, is neither strategic, sustainable, nor an appropriate use of limited government funds," said Dr Susan Lieberman, Species Programme Director, WWF International.
The analysis considers a range of direct and indirect costs associated with whaling and the processing and marketing of whale products, such as whale meat. Researchers conclude that these costs, combined with declining demand for whale meat and the risk of negative impacts such as trade or tourism boycotts, make commercial whaling unlikely to produce benefits for either country's economies or taxpayers.
In Norway, for example, the government since 1992 has spent more than US$4.9 million on public information, public relations, and lobbying campaigns to garner support for its whaling and seal hunting industries, according to the report. In addition, government subsidies for the whaling industry have equaled almost half of the gross value of all whale meat landings made through the Rafisklaget, the Norwegian Fishermen's Sales Organisation.
The report notes similar use of taxpayer funds by Japan. During the 2008-09 season, the Japanese whaling industry, for example, needed US$12 million in taxpayer money just to break even. Overall, Japanese subsidies for whaling amount to US$164 million since 1988.
Other major findings in the report include:
* Wholesale prices of whale meat per kg in Japan have been falling since 1994, starting at just over $30/kg in 1994, and declining to $16.40 in 2006.
* Norway has spent an additional US$10.5 million covering the costs of an inspection programme from 1993 until 2006, when it was scrapped due to the losses it was causing the country's whalers. Japan and Norway, in defiance of the International Whaling Commission's moratorium on commercial whaling, kill up to 2,000 whales a year, exploiting loopholes in the IWC's founding treaty that allow whaling under 'objection' to management decisions (Norway) and "scientific" whaling for research purposes (Japan).
* Ahead of the 61st IWC meeting next week, researchers point out that killing more whales likely would hurt whale-watching and tourism, trade, and the international image of Norway and Japan – impacts which would far outweigh any economic benefits of whaling.
"It is clear that whaling is heavily subsidised at present," the report states. "In both Japan and Norway, substantial funds are made available to prop up an operation which would otherwise be commercially marginal at best, and most likely loss making."
"Norway and Japan are hurting tourism, a potential growth industry in both countries in order to spend millions of dollars obtaining whale meat, the sale of which makes no profit," said Sue Fisher, WDCS US Policy Director. "How much longer are they going to keep wasting their taxpayer's money?"
The analysis was conducted by independent economists eftec and commissioned by WWF and the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society.
Pictured: An Ivar's sign was hoisted out of Puget Sound last month off Alki Beach.
More than half a century later, the late Ivar Haglund's underwater billboards pitching his restaurants have been found anchored at the bottom of Puget Sound. Hoax or not, they add to his legacy as Seattle's greatest self-promoter
He has been called the greatest self-promoter in the history of Seattle.
And now, more than 24 years after he died at age 79, Ivar Haglund apparently has managed one more fantastic stunt.
Underwater billboards that date to around 1954.
Anchored to the bottom of Puget Sound with concrete footings.
Yes, at the bottom of Puget Sound.
At around 55 to 80 feet in depth, depending on the tide, and near the shore.
You know, just in case you were in a personal submarine cruising along Elliott Bay, or Edmonds, or Alki Point.
There they would be:
"Ivar's Chowder. Worth surfacing for. 75¢ a cup."
Or, "Diver's special. Kids 12 & Under Eat Free* with regular entrée. Includes Jell-O."
There apparently were plans for seven underwater billboards.
In the past month, the company has had divers bring up three of the billboards — about 7 by 22 feet and made of stainless steel — using a map found in their founder's immense collection of artifacts stored on the top floor of the chain's headquarters at Pier 54.Included in that collection are Haglund's LP vinyl collection, his rosé wine collection, illustrations, photos and ...
Apparently the actual naval architectural drawings, permit and location map for the billboards.
The operative word is "apparently."
"This still could be a hoax. Someone could be doing something," says Bob Donegan, president of Ivar's. "That's why we're being careful on the authentication."
Of course, if it was a hoax, a prime suspect would be the Ivar's chain itself.
Ivar's is promoting the find of the underwater billboards on its Web site, which includes a 2 ½-minute mini-documentary about finding that first billboard Aug. 21 off Alki Beach.
It's also started running 30-second commercials about the billboards during prime time, budgeting more than $100,000 for television ads through mid-October.
As the chain explained about the underwater billboards, "Ivar's decided to do what Haglund would have done: promote them."
But making this all up?
"If I was smart enough to come up with this hoax, I'd be doing other stuff," says Donegan.
He said the company will send samples of the paint to be tested for lead, trying to figure out when they might have been painted.
Seattle historian Paul Dorpat also says he doesn't believe the billboards are hoaxes.
If anyone should know about Ivar Haglund, it is Dorpat. He is writing a book about Haglund, and interviewed him a number of times. Dorpat also has been granted access to all of Haglund's archives.
"As far as I can tell, it's the real thing," says Dorpat about the papers documenting Ivar's plans for the billboards. It was Dorpat who found the documents.
Dorpat remembered a poem that Haglund likely wrote in the mid-1950s that celebrated cross-sound submarine passenger service, with lines that included:
"As we go ping-ping-pinging along, We sing our happy song, Up periscope down down down, We're diving in Puget Sound ... "
Ivar, obviously, was a man with vast imagination.
And so, for Dorpat, here you have Haglund writing about Puget Sound submarine service, and then around that time, commissioning plans for underwater billboards.
And what to say about the documentation that Dorpat found, typed with manual typewriters and including old-style telephone numbers that began with, for example, ME, for Melrose?
"Either someone planted this stuff or Ivar was scheming to pull a few official legs with a promotional first — underwater billboards."
Then, Dorpat speculates, Ivar probably became preoccupied with any number of other promotions. "Or just forgot it."
After all, promotions were aplenty for Haglund.
He was the one who staged an underwater fight between an octopus and a boxer named "Two-Ton Tony Galento."
He was the one who, when a train tank car spilled 1,000 gallons of syrup near his restaurant, had pancakes cooked up, put on hip waders, and posed for the media spooning syrup off the street.
Donegan says divers have gone to five of the seven sites on the old Ivar's map. He doesn't know when the last two will be visited. Nothing was found at two of the sites.
Dorpat says Haglund would be very proud that more than a half-century after he — allegedly — dreamed up the underwater billboards, they were making news.
"This is the ghost of Ivar Haglund," says Dorpat. "The greatest self-promoter in the history of Seattle. He will not die."
By Erik Lacitis
Seattle Times staff reporter
Four times a day, the fury of the planet's highest tides surges in and out of the Bay of Fundy.
The gigantic ebb and flow of 100 billion tonnes of water between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia is recognized as a natural wonder -- and now, more than ever, as a massive power plant.
Canada has enough tidal energy to power most of the country's homes and the lion's share of it lies in this bay, according to Natural Resources Canada.
As early as next week, Ottawa and the government of Nova Scotia will announce whether they'll okay more development in the area -- a decision that will draw attention to the potential benefits and risks of this new source.
Only one-2,000th of that potential has been tapped so far. For 25 years, Nova Scotia has been capturing enough of the clean, renewable energy from Fundy tides to power 6,000 homes.
The 20-megawatt, tidal-power turbine on the river near Annapolis Royal is one of only two spinning in Canadian waters -- and one of only a handful in the world. The country holds more than 40 gigawatts of tidal power, although much of it lies currently beyond reach in the Arctic, far from any electrical grid.
The number of generating stations is expected to rise, especially as countries search for ways to cut back greenhouse-gas emissions.
Three companies are awaiting environmental approval from Ottawa and Nova Scotia to plunk their turbines into Fundy's inner Minas Channel. The governments could give the green light any day.
If approved, the first test unit could be in the water as early as this fall. This project could eventually lead to a larger-scale project in the Bay of Fundy, one of the most promising sites for tidal power on the planet.
But there may be a catch.
Some marine biologists warn the potential impacts of this renewable resource could devastate another resource -- the area fishery.
Mike Dadswell, a scientist who's been studying the Annapolis Royal turbine since the 1980s, said the spinning blades of the underwater powerhouse is a killing -- and maiming -- machine for marine life.
"The gulls will have a good time feeding -- there will be lots of food," said Dadswell, a fisheries and marine biology expert at Acadia University.
"Unfortunately, they're selling it on the green thing -- and everybody's so keen to do green that nobody's paying much attention, in a lot of cases, to the other problems."
Dadswell said the proposal calls for the turbines, which have blades as long as 17 metres, to be set up along the upper bay's main migration route.
It's a highway for millions of fish and it also attracts porpoises, seals and the occasional whale.
He said the equipment would essentially be anchored out in the open ocean, making them even more dangerous.
"From a green side, this isn't like a dam in the river anymore, this is windmills sitting in the sea," said Dadswell, who points out that smaller creatures can be injured by pressure generated from the swirling blades.
He fears it will be impossible to measure the damage once the turbines have been dropped out of sight, below the waves of the turbulent channel.
"It's a rough, huge-current, foggy place -- nobody does any pleasure boating out there," he said.
Dadswell is also concerned the public will forget that they're out there, making it easier for the government to give the go-ahead for more.
Politicians should instead be focusing on developing wind and solar power, he said, adding that Germany combines both to generate almost 30 per cent of the country's power.
But proponents of tidal power say ocean currents produce much more energy than wind, and with charts that predict the tides decades into the future, there is no uncertainty.
"The density of the water, the simplicity of design, the predictability of the flows makes the electricity very attractive, especially if you can find those fast-moving waters close to an electrical grid," said Glen Darou, president and CEO of Clean Current Power Systems Inc., a tidal power energy developer based in Vancouver.
Clean Current is one of the three companies chosen to test the Minas Channel. Darou insists Clean Current blades are not as threatening to larger animals because the tips are covered by a drum.
He also said the machines give off a low humming sound.
"Fish and sea mammals will sense that a long way away and they will go around it," he said.
In 2006, the company built Canada's other tidal turbine at Race Rocks Ecological Reserve, a 65-kilowatt unit off the southern tip of Vancouver Island.
Coal-dependent Nova Scotia wants 25 per cent of its energy to come from renewable sources by 2020, and it sees tidal power as a means to get there.
Oil and gas has been leaking from a faulty cement well on the West Atlas rig, about 250km off the far north Kimberley coast, since last Friday.
Despite assurances from the Federal Government and the rig's operator, PTTEP, that the slick is drifting away from the coast, a whale and her calf have been spotted alongside oil on the shore side of the rig.
Greens senator Rachel Siewert has flown over the rig and says she saw the whales near a breakaway slick. Strong ocean currents and wind are thought to have moved the slick towards land.
"There is a lot of oil that has spread substantially,'' Ms Siewert said.
"The Government have said that there is no risk to the coast, but that is nonsense. If it keeps flowing for the next seven to eight weeks, it is inevitable that oil will come ashore.''
It is expected to take seven-weeks to stem the flow of hydrocarbons forming a film of oil stretching over 180km from east to west of the rig.
The Government-run Australian Maritime Safety Authority, which is managing the clean-up, has labelled it one of the worst spills to affect the WA coast.
Ms Siewert said legal action against PTTEP could not be ruled out.
Biologists say an endangered flatback turtle fitted with a tracking devise as part of a Barrow Island research project is on a collision course with the toxic slick.
Since late November, the 20-year-old female turtle has travelled 914km along the west coast.
The Wilderness Society says the Kimberley coastline is a "marine superhighway'' used by 19 species of whales and dolphins, sea snakes, birds and fish.
WWF marine biologist Ghislaine Llewellyn says the tracking devise on the turtle illustrates the impact a disaster of this scale can have on a range of marine life.
Ms Siewert has accused the Government and PTTEP of misleading the public on the size and extent of the spill.
PTTEP says it will take at least seven weeks to stop the flow of oil because it needs to tow in another rig from Singapore.
Conservation groups have called on PTTEP to use a rig offered by Woodside Petroleum, which is only five days away.
PTTEP refused and a spokesman would not comment on the company's refusal.
ScienceDaily — The green mussel is known for being a notoriously invasive fouling species, but scientists have just discovered that it also has a very powerful form of adhesion in its foot, according to a recent article in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. The stickiness of the mussel's foot could possibly be copied to form new artificial adhesives.
Other mussels have inspired synthetic polymers that have been made into versatile adhesives and coatings, explained J. Herbert Waite, senior author and a professor in UC Santa Barbara's Marine Science Institute. They all rely on proteins that contain an amino acid called "Dopa," (identical to the Dopa used to treat Parkinson's disease) and have been studied extensively by Waite and his research group.
Waite learned that the green mussel, Perna viridis, relies on an alternative to the common "Dopa" chemistry, based on an elaborate modification of the amino acid tryptophan in the green mussel's adhesive protein. Its adhesive chemistry is much more complicated than that of mussels previously studied. It took Waite and his team six years to unravel the story.
The green mussel's sticky adhesiveness has the potential to help form strong bonds in wet surfaces, including teeth and bones. In addition, the adhesive could be used to repair ships that have developed cracks while at sea and must be repaired in a wet environment.
Waite was first alerted to the complicated adhesive of the green mussel when a Japanese group contacted him to comment on their research on the animal. He then learned of an infestation of green mussels in Tampa Bay, Fla.
On further study, he learned that the aggressive green mussel had moved from India's Sea of Bengal to many locations around the world, including the coasts of Japan, Australia, Korea, China, the Philippines, and Indonesia. Additionally, many Pacific Islands and the coasts of some countries surrounding the Gulf of Mexico have been invaded. "People are interested in how they invade, adapt, and spread so easily," said Waite.
Waite asked the U.S. Geological Survey and Florida Sea Grant to send him frozen specimens from Tampa Bay, as this is the only way that California would allow the green mussel to be shipped into the state. The feet were severed from about 100 freshly shucked mussels. After thawing, they were placed in a tissue grinder and then centrifuged for study.
"One aspect that is kind of scary is that the green mussel is more successful than other kinds of mussels at living in polluted water," said Waite. Coastal power plants that flush warm seawater into the ocean provide an ideal environment for the mussels. "Once they get a foothold, they stay."
The other authors on the paper are Hua Zhao and Jason Sagert of the Institute of Chemical and Engineering Sciences in Singapore, and Dong Soo Hwang of the Marine Science Institute at UCSB.
ScienceDaily — An international team of researchers has shown that mercury is another important factor in cardiovascular disease as it changes the way arteries work. One of the possible sources of exposure of humans to mercury is by eating contaminated fish.
The main effects of mercury affect the central nervous system and renal function. Over recent years the scientific community has reported an increase in cardiovascular risk following exposure to mercury, “although the mechanisms responsible for this increase are not completely known”, state the authors of the new study that has been published recently in the American Journal of Physiology-Heart and Circulatory Physiology explain.
Ana María Briones is a researcher at the Universidad Autónoma of Madrid (UAM) and is one of the authors of the study. Briones explains the aim of the investigation to SINC: “Because the relationship between mercury and cardiovascular risk has been explained recently, and that cardiovascular risk is known to be related to changes in vascular function, we intended to see whether a relationship existed between mercury and changes in vascular responses”.
The aim of the study was to evaluate whether really low concentrations of mercury, administered over a prolonged period of time, “could have a prejudicial effect on vascular response”, that is to say, on the way the arteries behave.
Data confirm that low doses of mercury have a harmful effect on vascular function. Mercedes Salaices, one of the other authors of the study, emphasises that the impact of mercury “could be compared to the impact produced by other more traditional cardiovascular risk factors such as hypertension, diabetes or hypercholesterolaemia”.
The researchers analysed whether chronic exposure to mercury causes an endothelial dysfunction in resistance and conductance arteries. Treatment with mercury induces an increase in oxidative stress, which is responsible – at least in part – for the deterioration in vascular responses. “Arteries contract more and relax less because there is less nitric oxide”, the vasodilator factor that is attacked by oxidative stress, underlines Briones.
The risk of exposure to mercury today
Humans have been exposed to different metal pollutants such as mercury, although the possible consequences to health are not known in depth. At the present time, exposure to mercury is due, mainly, to the consumption of polluted fish, to the administration of anti-fungal agents and Thimerosal antiseptics in vaccines and to the inhalation of mercury vapour from some dental re-constructions
The European Environment Agency (EEA) recommended a reference blood mercury concentration of 5.8 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml). It is considered that there are no adverse effects below this level. Data reveal that the concentration of mercury in the general population is less than 1 ng/ml, whereas in workers who suffer exposure in polluted zones, the levels are between 7 and 10. The percentage reaches up to 5.6 ng/ml amongst people who eat fish on a regular basis.
The following is a quote from the Taiji Whaling Association:
'Japanese fishermen working in Taiji’s traditional drive fishery were yet again harassed earlier this month by representatives of an eco-terrorist organization. And yet again these interlopers have substantially misrepresented to the media both the facts about this centuries-old fishery and about their own actions-presumably seeking to enhance their organization’s fund-raising opportunities. Archaeologists have shown that Japan began to utilise dolphins and whales as food at least 9000 years ago. Coastal dwellers first used beached whales and organized small-scale hunting operations for dolphins. Then in 1606 records show Taiji organized larger-scale whaling operations thus making Taiji the birthplace of Japan’s traditional whaling industry. Taiji has a proud history of 400 years of whaling. From Taiji traditional whaling operations spread and adapted throughout Japan. In modern times the community-based whalers in Taiji have taken several species of small whales dolphins and porpoises. The dolphin drive fishery is a fishery that the Government of Japan manages sustainably pursuant both to applicable international and domestic law. In 1946 whaling nations signed the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling establishing the International Whaling Commission (IWC) “to provide for the proper conservation of whale stocks and thus make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry.” The IWC manages the 13 species of large whales. On the other hand management of small cetaceans dolphins among them remains the responsibility of the coastal state in whose waters these are found. The Government of Japan sets a sustainable quota for each species based on scientific abundance estimates. During the drive fisheries season government-appointed inspectors are in Taiji to oversee the fisheries and take samples for scientific analyses from every animal caught. For Japan the fisheries for whales and small cetaceans have for thousands of years been important food sources. However after the IWC imposed a moratorium on the taking of all large whales endangered or not Japan’s community-based whalers have only been able to take the small cetaceans for which Japan has management responsibility. Thus the community of Taiji is alert when interlopers whose agendas are based neither on international law nor on science but rather on emotion for economic self-interest continue willfully to distort the facts about this fishery. The dolphin fishery represents an important part of the tradition through which generations of Taiji fishermen have supplied their community with food. They will continue to do so.'
From Oceanic Defense:
Here are a few things to consider regarding the statement above.
メチル水銀 = Methyl Mercury.
水俣を思いだせ - Remember Mitamata
- Nowhere did the Association mention the DANGERS of eating whale or dolphin meat which is proven to have upwards of 500 times more mercury than permitted by Japanese health ministries.
- With respect to tradition it was not mentioned that the eating of whale and dolphin meat laced with methyl mercury and PCB's. That would lead us to believe that tradition involves poisoning their own families - 子供達を殺すな！ (do not kill your children)
- Demand for whale and dolphin meat has continually decreased as people become more aware of the dangers of consumption.
- we are NOT ECO-TERRORISTS - we are concerned citizens. Brothers and sisters to the Japanese people, the same people that have a right to know what you have kept secret for far too many years. These brothers and sisters also have the right to know what they are feeding their families.
(knowledge is power)