Thursday, July 29, 2010

Drowning Turtles Because We Can

It's just too bad humans are so human.

It's a small mystery right now what is causing sea turtle deaths in the Gulf of Mexico. The obvious culprit of BP's toxic plumes is not showing itself as obvious. Many dead turtles appear to have drowned, which is common when caught in fishing nets. That's why nets have escape hatches for turtles, and these hatches are required in many fishing areas.

Speculation by those that know much more about the fishery and the people using (abusing) it is that the increase in dead sea turtles is due to fishermen not using the escape hatches because they can get away with it -- the enforcers are too busy dealing with the Gulf disaster to notice. Of course, it's not all fishermen doing this and it's unproven.

If true, and I imagine it is in more than a few cases, how plainly disturbing. The myth of the enlightened hunter, the seafarer who knows the resource like a family member and treats it with respect and dignity, dies hard.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

One Fish, Two Fish, No Fish

Apparently we've overfished four key fish -- salmon, tuna, cod, and sea bass. No surprise there but according to David Helvarg's review of Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Fish by Paul Greenberg, there is a litany of reactions and options and attempts to do something about this. How about not overfishing, for starters.

Looks like a good book to provide the depth and breadth of the issues, and to help any ocean conservationist freshen up on the immense challenges facing the ocean's fish. David Helvarg, the reviewer, is a solid ocean conservationist, and his clear fathom of the weight of it all is refreshing. 

Here is David Helvarg's review, in, originally appearing in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

See the Light

A solar boat is sailing around the Mediterranean to promote renewable energy and ocean conservation. Powered by light energy from our star. Yes, it's just one boat but it's the symbolic message that's important in this case (it is one cool looking boat anyway).

As I've wished aloud, it would be great if the Gulf disaster became the impetus to wean ourselves from oil.  Although it doesn't look promising as the US Congress and the Obama administration seem incapable of creating any clean energy legislation without some major capitulation to the Money -- the petroleum and fossil fuel corporations and lobbyists. What will it take for them to see the light?

A picture of the sun boat and a short article about it from the Clean Technica site is here:

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Not Just Another Pretty Face

Turns out sea turtles are more than fascinating ancient mariners capable of amazing feats like swimming thousands of miles away from the beach where they were born only to return years later to lay eggs on that same beach. That would make any GPS blush. If that's not enough, Oceana just released a report that outlines the value of sea turtles to ecosystems and  the marine life around them.  The context is another example of what's at stake with BP's Gulf disaster.

Below is a highlight from the report:

"As sea turtles in the Gulf continue to be impacted by the oil spill, so does their ability to fulfill vital functions in the marine ecosystem. Sea turtles’ ability to do the following will likely be affected by the spill:
  • Maintain healthy seagrass beds by increasing the productivity and nutrient content of seagrass blades when grazing.
  • Maintain healthy coral reefs by removing sponges when foraging.
  • Facilitate nutrient cycling by supplying a concentrated source of high-protein nutrients when nesting.
  • Balance marine food webs by maintaining jellyfish populations.
  • Provide a food source for fish by carrying around barnacles, algae and other similar organisms.
  • Increase the rate of nutrient recycling on the ocean floor by breaking up shells while foraging.
  • Provide habitat for small marine organisms as well as offer an oasis for fish and seabirds in the open ocean."
Here is the write-up about sea turtles and Oceana's report from HULIQ:

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Sea Torn Asunder

Concise little piece the other day from CNN with the Ocean Conservancy and Philippe Cousteau in the Gulf. The writer talks about the three R's of BP's catastrophe -- Restoration, Reform, and Relief. I suggest another one: redemption, However, that is admittedly a bit Biblically melodramatic on my part, and unrealistic.

I suggest another important R word -- Remove, as in remove ourselves from the petroleum energy economy and get onto the business of creating a green energy economy and jobs.

Plus, they're literally scuba diving into the oil, on the scene, which is pretty hardcore. Nice work.

Here's the piece from CNN:

Thursday, July 22, 2010

National Ocean Policy - O My Giddy Aunt

The Obama administration has created a National Ocean Policy. Nice! It's unclear exactly what it means, or how much punch it packs, but it sounds good. Some ocean conservation people are already applauding. Others are adopting a wait and see attitude.

Cynical as ever, I'd place myself in the latter. It was odd that there wasn’t much fanfare from the Obama administration on this one. Makes me wonder how much teeth it really has. Then again, the finance reform bill and other things are stealing a lot of the spotlight right now. The language seems overstuffed with punch words, too. Sentences like these sound too good to be true:

"(the policy) will enable a more integrated, comprehensive, ecosystem-based, flexible, and proactive approach to planning and managing sustainable multiple uses across sectors and improve the conservation of the ocean, our coasts, and the Great Lakes."

But come on, it's pretty cool that “ecosystem-based” is in there, which is key. Plus “managing sustainable” nearly makes me giddy. I'm that much of an ocean nerd.

So maybe there is reason to celebrate. This could be the yang to BP’s Gulf disaster yin. I’d still like to see a major move toward a renewable energy economy, like the true cost of petroleum reflected at the pumps for starters. But for the writer of a blog about how great the oceans are and how they need more protection, this is at least encouraging news.

Shout out to Obama and the “24 senior-level policy officials” who put this together. The Pew Oceans Commission gets special mention for its solid reports and warnings backed in science that apparently helped get the ball rolling.

See the full press release-like story here from Environmental News Service:

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Those Silly Superstitions

By the way, yes, I'm well aware the cap is holding and no more oil from the well has spilled or otherwise gushed into the Gulf of Mexico as of today.

Although fully embracing the extremely "guarded optimism" when it was first capped a few days ago per previous post Break Out the Bubbly?, I have yet to exhale.

Like a baseball player preparing for gameday, superstitions take over no matter how ridiculous they are to the point where I didn't even want to mention the good news here so as not to hex it. But here we are. The other shoe has not dropped. Yet. Maybe it won't. So far so good. Keeping fingers crossed, and trying to look ahead to clean up, restoration, and redemption.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

January Jones is Not Impressed

January Jones, star of Mad Men, supports ocean conservation. Nice to have a hottie on our side. The story goes she got McCain to sign the Shark Conservation Act. Nice work, January.

As noted in a previous post Hug a Shark Today, sharks are worth saving because they're top predators, which are key to the balance of marine ecosystems. Besides, they're cool. They're magnificent creatures. They're not commercially significant, either. Makes me wonder why people killed 100 million of them last year. To flex our machismo? Get over it. January Jones is not impressed.

Here is a piece about January's support. Sorry, not a picture of her in a bikini.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Break Out the Bubbly?

I could nearly hear the collective sigh as the news came that BP's gushing undersea well has been stopped. As of today, no more oil is spewing into the Gulf of Mexico.

This is "cautiously optimistic" at its best. Nearly everyone I read or heard talking about the new cap used that phrase in one way or another, with many reminding us that the relief wells, the works in progress due in August, are the only sure thing.

Many people simply don't believe the well has really been capped or that it will hold having completely lost their trust in BP and the government. Some take a darker view. "It's like putting a Band-Aid on a dead man," said one Gulf resident, according to the New York Times.

This is a small victory, yes, and I feel the relief, but I'm also hesitant to actually be happy about it. Perhaps people like me are psychically scarred by the demoralizing helplessness and the relentless geyser of bad news over the past nearly three months. Plus, there's the millions of gallons of toxic petroleum still in the water.
Hate to be the buzz kill but BP's disaster is leagues from over.

At least for now -- today -- the flow has stopped and if anything, the engineers proved that they actually could stop it. I guess it's not time to break out the bubbly, but then again, will there ever be a right time to do so with this disaster?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Dear Hawaii, You Rock!

Shout out to the US State of Hawaii for being the first to ban shark finning. Shark finning is the poster child for how short-sighted wastefulness can easily ruin whole fisheries by killing off important top-predators and thereby toppling nature's balance.

Shark finners slice off a shark's fins and throw the dead or dying shark carcass back into the ocean. Millions of sharks are killed this way each year but without the bodies, it's hard to determine species, so we are likely overfishing the ocean's key top-predators as we speak. The fins are used for soup, yes, soup, a big delicacy especially in China and Hong Kong.

Here's a brief story about Hawaii's efforts in the local Hawaiian Star Advertiser:

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Still Gushing!

Lest we forget, while we sleep, while we eat lunch, while we try to earn a living, take care of our loved ones, enjoy a movie or a baseball game, tie our shoes, or shop for a new smart phone, THE OIL IS STILL GUSHING.

Like looking at a car accident, see it live on CNN:

For nearly 3 months now...

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Hug a Shark Today

A new book is out called Trophic Cascades: Predators, Prey, and the Changing Dynamics of Nature. I have yet to read it but I will -- additional support of the importance of top-level predators. In this case, one more reason to do all we can to save sharks.

You know, Peter Benchley, author of Jaws, spent the remainder of his life after writing that intense book trying to get people to love sharks not hate them, even after demonizing the Big One that didn't get away in his prose. It's almost as if he realized his folly, realized the beauty of the animals, and tried to fix it.

Top-predators are all about balance, and only man is especially skilled at destroying nature's balance by killing as many top-predators as we can.  

According to the Press Release about the new book:

According to Dr. Pikitch, the scientific evidence featured in this book shows that top-level predators are essential in maintaining the structure, function, and biodiversity of most natural ecosystems. For example, a study featured in the book discusses how the decimation of great sharks in the mid-Atlantic ocean off the coast of the United States may be linked to the collapse of a once-important shellfishery.

"This book provides additional fuel for the need to shift away from a species-by-species management approach to a more holistic, ecosystem-based one," commented Dr. Pikitch.


To request a review copy of Trophic Cascades: Predators, Prey, and the Changing Dynamics of Nature, please call Cindy Yeast at 720.542.9455 or 202.236.5413.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Bella & Vicki at the Beach

Don't take my word for it. Sometimes a good day at the beach can be best described by two twin sisters swimming in the Atlantic on the East Coast US for the first time.

"It was fun and the waves were like were good, but it was colder. I saw little fishes in the water. I thought it was plankton."

-- nine year old Isabella from Chicago.

"I found a lot of shells at the beach."

-- nine year old Victoria from Chicago

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Hope from Positive Citizenship

There are three positive, dare I say hopeful, points about this small news piece.

Here is an non-scientist or certainly not an enviornmentrallist per se directly connecting ocean health to a clean energy economy.  Hello BP, hello "beyond petroleum", are you listening?

Here is a citizen taking action and advocating in Congress for clean energy legislation.

Here is a non-sustainability expert speaking intelligently about sustainability.

I also like his line: "the fish have no voice." Shout out to Maliek Carrington.

Read the full story here from the Herald, Rock Hill, South Carolina:

(Source: Herald; Rock Hill, S.C.)The Lake Wylie Pilot featured its own columnist Maliek Carrington, the Urban Angler, June 15 and June 22, after he was chosen to participate in Clean Energy Works "fly-in" to Washington, D.C., June 22-23. The program brings together African-American leaders representing the Clean Energy Works North Carolina delegation, the latest of several groups sent to advocate for clean energy legislation in the past year and a half.

"We haven't had the chance to specifically send a group of African-American constituents yet," said Alina Johnson, who heads the North Carolina program for Clean Energy Works, in the June 22 Pilot article. "We want to make sure that they are advocated for."

Here's what Carrington has to say about his trip:

"The trip was a success.

"As an angler I wanted to make sure not only did we work on sustainable buildings, but a sustainable future in which we, the human race, don't use all natural resources in our life time to have a healthy earth for our children's children. Scientific facts prove we are living unsustainably. So with outdoor conservation and education, we can live ecofriendly, while creating new green technology and protect our waterways. The ocean takes up 89 percent of the earth's surface, and fresh water only makes up 1 percent of that. The gulf is a prime example of why I was there as an angler. The fish have no voice and for our consumption of oil, we are destroying our future.

"I want to say thank you to all the North Carolina representatives who took the time to speak with us. I want to give a special thank you to Sen. Kay Hagan for the morning coffee and the great conversation, and her support on the energy bill. If I had to sum this up in a one-minute commercial, I would say the power of a vote is valuable. When you think it's not important to vote, you relinquish your power in society. Your vote does count, and the doors of Capitol Hill are open for anyone who wants to make an appointment to speak to our elected officials.

"America is a great place, and we have to be heard. Our future depends on it.

"My goal is to create training and education with partnerships with the Urban League and others to make sure we create jobs for all people, not just work, but sustainable jobs that last and create income for all families."

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A Gulf Disaster Selection

Here are a few miscellanous distressing and sad quotes from BP's Gulf disaster.

On impact to the individuals who make up the billion dollar Gulf economy:

Accroding to the NY Times:

In reference to the Original Romar House Bed and Breakfast Inn in Orange Beach, Alabama, owned by Jerry Gilbreath.

"The inn brought in $21,000 in June 2009 but just $6,000 last month, Mr. Gilbreath said. He is doubtful July will bring in as much. There are no reservations in August.

'I don't know how much longer I'm going to be able to keep this place open,' he said"

On the prelude to disaster and the bumbling between two agencies:

Also according to the NY Times:

"The US Fish and Wildlife Service agreed with the Minerals Management Service's characterization that the chances that deepwater drilling would result in a spill that would pollute critical habitat was low."

Apologies folks, wish I had some good news.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

BP in Charge of Assessing their Own Damage

Good story about BP in the henhouse. These are the kind of things that tend to slip under the radar but should not. BP is in control of how the $500 million science fund on assessing environmental damage in the Gulf will be and is being spent. This seems like the definition of a conflict of interest. Seems the US Government agreed to this arrangement.

Jeff Short, a former NOAA scientist who's with the conservation group Oceana, said it best:

He said that by insisting that BP pay for the research, the government is ceding control over what studies are conducted.

"I find myself wondering, why would BP want to guide money into projects that would clearly show much larger environmental damage than would have come to light otherwise?" he said.

Read the full story here, from the McClatchy Newspapers. Story by Renee Schoof.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Incremental Contamination of the Ocean's Food Suppy

Maybe the whales are warning us. Maybe their captivating songs are saying we're too late.
Ocean Alliance scientists have published a study after nearly a decade of research that suggests sperm whales are filled with man-made toxins.  It's not all about the sperm whales, although hard to deny that they are magnificent creatures.

"These contaminants, I think, are threatening the human food supply. They certainly are threatening the whales and the other animals that live in the ocean," said biologist Roger Payne, founder and president of Ocean Alliance, the research and conservation group that produced the report, according to the Huffington Post.

This study by Payne, if validated and supported by other scientists, should set off alarms that even in supposedly pristine areas like the Artic and Antarctica, there are high levels of man made toxins in the water and in the organisms that live there. Some of the toxins are metals like chromium, aluminum, mercury, etc. The sources of the pollutants can be very far away.

What is the impact on seafood that is the primary source of protein for millions of people, and on the plates of Americans several times a week? We may not be eating sperm whales, well not many of us, but we're eating large fish, top of the food chain, top predators. We have already seen studies and warnings about mercury in tuna and other large fish.

I have a feeling though with all that's going on, this red flag one will sink out of sight.

Shout out to Ocean Alliance, the organization that conducted the study, and its founder Roger Payne.

Here's a link to a good story summarizing the report and the issues for people and marine animals from the AP:

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Don't Take It

BP's Gulf of Mexico catastrophe conjures up Peter Finch in the 1976 movie Network.

He shouts the famous line: "I want you to get up out of your chair, stick your head out the window and yell, I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!"

Maybe we should all do that. Make sure the politicians and Big Oil are within earshot.

This photo is from CNN.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Desperate Acts in the Gulf

Do you Rent a U Haul?

How do you move thousands of sea turtle eggs? Very carefully. But it's not funny!

This is another one of those good stories, sad stories, mad stories. People are moving thousands of sea turtle eggs out of the way of BP's toxic onslaught.

It's hopeful, a feel good story -- so why don't I feel good? It's sad that we even have to do this. This desperate act is the result of man's folly not a natural threat, like a hurricane. You'd think we could stop what we started. It's maddening.

Too many questions, no time. Smart people who care about sea turtles and the natural world admit they're "tinkering" with nature and would never do this unless they had to. Turtles have amazing natural abilities to find their way in the vast oceans. They hatch and set out on massive journeys, and return to the same beach years later to lay eggs. What happens when we move them before they're even born? They just re-set their GPS?

I'm glad we're saving the sea turtles, one of my favorite creatures actually, but mad as hell at BP.  

Here's two stories about moving the turtle eggs (it's getting a lot of good press):

Thursday, July 1, 2010

All Mucked Up in Florida

Fresh from the Gulf, a friend of a friend took these photos of BP's muck on the formely blazing white beaches of Pensacola, Florida. We've seen shots like these before in the media but there's something powerful about getting them from "real people" who just want their favorite beach back.