Monday, August 30, 2010

Endangered sea turtles released off Singapore waters

The Independent: Endangered sea turtles released off Singapore waters

Thirteen endangered sea turtles born and bred in Japan were released off Singapore waters Tuesday as part of efforts to conserve the species.

The five one-year-olds and eight three-year-olds are the offspring of Hawksbill turtles donated by the Underwater World Singapore aquarium to the Port of Nagoya aquarium in 1997 and 2002.

They were brought to Singapore earlier this year and kept at the Underwater World aquarium before the eventual release into their natural habitat.

"I feel a sense of great relief because the turtles are where they belong,' George Balazs, biologist and leader of marine turtle research at the Hawaii-based Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center.

"Sea turtles in the sea," the scientist said after the last turtle swam into the water.

The three-year-olds were fitted with satellite tracking devices so that scientists can follow their progress.

The turtles were first transported in boxes from nearby Sentosa island and then released on a stretch of beach on Big Sister's Island.

They crawled down the beach to the water's edge and disappeared into the sea as conservationists, scientists, students and the media erupted into cheers and applause.

"This release project has our strong desire that we want to return those Japanese-born turtles to Singaporean sea (which is) the native place of their parents," said Makoto Soichi, director with the Nagoya aquarium.

Underwater World Singapore said cooperation was key to efforts to conserve turtles which are regarded as a delicacy in parts of Asia.

"We hope that our integrated and collaborative efforts will contribute to our better understanding of Hawksbill turtle behaviour and improve turtle conservation efforts," said Peter chew, deputy general manager of the Singapore aquarium.

Turtle soup is a delicacy in parts of Asia and turtle shells are crushed into powder for use in a jelly dessert.

The Hawksbill shell is also used to make products like combs, ornamental hairpins and glasses frames.



By Stuart Winter, Enviroment editor Have your say(5)
DEADLY sea monsters have woken from the deep to cause carnage among some of the world’s richest fishing grounds.

Millions of killer giant squid are not only devouring vast amounts of fish they have even started attacking humans.

Two Mexican fishermen were recently dragged from their boats and chewed so badly that their bodies could not be identified even by their own families.

No wonder the giant squid are called “diablos rojos” – red devils.

Monster squid are the stuff of legend. But for fishermen and marine biologists along 10,000 miles of coast from Chile to Alaska, the myth has become reality.

And their story is told this week in a Channel Five documentary. [IN ENGLAND]

Since 2002, Humboldt giant squid, named after the 18th century German explorer, have been spreading their tentacles to deplete fishing stocks by moving from their traditional tropical hunting grounds off Mexico and laying claim to a vast sweep of the Pacific.

Hunting in 1,000-strong packs the giant squid can out-swim and out-think fish. Scientists believe they coordinate attacks by using pigment cells to communicate.

A single female is believed to be able to lay 30 million eggs, each one capable of becoming a giant killing machine.

Marine biologists wear chain-mail to protect themselves from creatures that can measure 8ft, weigh 100lb and carry an armoury of more than 40,000 fearsome teeth along two “attack” tentacles.

The creatures have another eight “legs” for grasping and swimming and can reach speeds of more than 15mph.

Former US special forces diver Scott Cassell has put his life on the line to study the squid. He too has been attacked.

He said: “Within five minutes my right shoulder had been pulled out of its socket. I had 30 big marks on my head and throat and one squid hit me so hard I saw stars. They then grabbed on to me and pulled me down so fast that I could not equalise and I ruptured my eardrum.

“They are the most opportunistic predators on the planet. They eat everything in their path. One Humboldt squid in the course of two years can eat 27,000lb of fish. What is going to be the impact on the environment?”

Experts believe they may be taking advantage of warmer waters due to climate change. The threat to fisheries and marine ecosystems is explained in the documentary.
Daily Mail Online: Britain takes first step towards world leadership in tidal energy technology
By Tom McGhie, Mail on Sunday Senior Financial Correspondent

Britain has taken the first significant step towards world leadership in tidal energy technology after a successful two-year commercial trial of a giant underwater turbine.

The huge twin-propeller turbine, owned by Bristol-based Marine Current Turbines, has been anchored to the bottom of Strangford Lough in Northern Ireland for two years.

Britannia rules the waves: SeaGen works like an 'underwater windmill' with the rotors being driven by tidal currents rather than wind power

In that time it has been operating round the clock and has delivered two million units of electricity into the grid - enough to power 1,500 homes for two years.
The turbine, called the SeaGen, is the only tidal energy system regularly generating power for the grid and is the one tidal system to be accredited by regulator Ofgem as a British power station.

SeaGen works like an 'underwater windmill' with the rotors being driven by the power of tidal currents rather than the wind. Technical director of Marine Current Turbines Peter Fraenkel said: 'SeaGen remains the world's most powerful tidal turbine and after two years of development and successful operation it is ready to be deployed on a commercial basis.'

New chairman Paul Lester, formerly chief executive of defence and services company VT Group, is now lobbying the Government to provide tax incentives to investors interested in putting money into tidal technology. 'I am not looking for handouts, just some tax changes to encourage more investment,' he said.

'We will also soon need to start raising more funds to enable us to put the SeaGen into industrial production.'

Marine Current Turbines is already working with RWE npower renewable to develop a tidal farm near Anglesey, Gwynedd.

It would involve about nine turbines the size of the Strangford Lough device and provide electricity for 10,000 homes.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Why fish don't freeze in the Arctic Ocean

USA Today - Science Fair: Why fish don't freeze in the Arctic Ocean

Ever wonder how fish avoid becoming popsicles while swimming in Arctic water that can drop to -19 degrees? Scientists at Germany's Ruhr-University Bochum are figuring out how they do it.

The fish have proteins in their blood that protect them from frost. That's been long known, but scientists never understood how these anti-freeze proteins worked.

Now, using a technique called terahertz spectroscopy, scientists discovered that the proteins change the way water molecules behave in the blood. They "usually perform a permanent dance in liquid water, and constantly enter new bonds, (but) dance a more ordered dance in the presence of proteins," the researchers explain in a statement.

Put another way: "the disco dance becomes a minuet," says Dr. Martina Havenity of Ruhr-University Bochum. The change prevents ice from forming.

By Michelle Kessler

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Archipelago’s Coral at Mercy of Warming Oceans, Experts Say

Jakarta Globe: Archipelago’s Coral at Mercy of Warming Oceans, Experts Say

Jakarta. Coral bleaching, which was found to have occurred at an alarming rate in waters off Aceh, is happening throughout the archipelago, an environmentalist group says.

“Almost all parts of Indonesia are seeing coral bleaching as a result of sea water movements in September 2009 that raised the temperature of the sea surface,” said Anton Wijonarno, marine program monitoring coordinator at WWF Indonesia.

“The peak was in February and March, which were also Indonesia’s hottest months.”

Bleaching refers to the whitening of coral due to heat driving out the algae living within the coral tissues.

International scientists recently declared that large swathes of coral off of Aceh had died after a surge in temperatures across the Andaman Sea from the northern tip of Sumatra to Thailand and Burma.

Experts say the bleaching phenomenon in Aceh is one of the most rapid and severe coral mortality events ever recorded.

Anton said the same problem is threatening other areas in various parts of the country, such as the Karimun Jawa islands in the Java Sea, Bali, Berau in East Kalimantan, Alor Island in East Nusa Tenggara and the Wakatobi islands in Sulawesi.

“The hardest hit [among these other areas] is Wakatobi, where around 35 percent of corals have turned white,” he said.

Suharsono, director of the center for oceanography research at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), said the whitening of corals did not immediately spell death.

“For some sensitive corals, especially branched ones such as pocillopora or seriatopora, they’ll die sooner if it gets too hot, but those without branches are more resistant,” he said.

Anton added two other factors that influenced the ability of bleached corals to recover. “The two options [death or recovery] depend on sea water conditions and the health of the coral reefs.”

Suharsono said the latest data indicated that only 6 percent of corals throughout the archipelago were in very excellent condition, 20 percent were categorized as excellent, 40 percent medium and 30 percent bad.

“If corals are in good shape, then they will quickly recover. But those in bad condition will mostly be knocked down.”

Andrew Baird, of James Cook University’s ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, previously told Reuters that reefs in Indonesia normally take five to 10 years to recover from localized bleaching.

Anton blamed climate change for the phenomenon, but the scientific community is still divided on what causes sea temperatures to rise.

Suharsono said rising water temperatures and the resulting coral bleaching was a natural phenomenon that was also seen in the 1990s.

“The worst happened in Indonesia back in 1993 when 90 percent of our corals died, and in 1998 when as much as 60 percent of the corals died.”

He added that the warming of the oceans was part of a larger natural cycle and that the solution lay in the environment itself. “Nature cannot be predicted, so if water is heated by nature then it can only be cooled down by nature,” he said.

Regardless of the cause, Anton said it was necessary for people whose livelihoods depended on healthy corals, such as fishermen and tour guides, to start adapting to the situation by finding other sources of income while waiting for the delicate underwater ecosystems to recover.

He cited traditional fishermen in East Nusa Tenggara who have been adjusting to the bleaching by taking up farming. “Bleaching adaptation [strategies] would depend on the location. We need to anticipate the time it would take for corals to recover to determine the strategy,” he said.

“If recovery will take a long time, then people would feel the impact as bleaching would affect the corals’ ability to function as a home for marine life.”

The bigger problem is what to do with corals that don’t recover. Syamsul Maarif, secretary general at the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, said humans could do little if the corals were already dead.

“We could try to re-plant the corals, however we have no records of how successful this will be,” Syamsul said.

BP scraps plans to drill in Arctic

BP scraps plans to drill in Arctic

BP has scrapped plans to drill in the Arctic, where a new oil rush is expected, amid fears such a move would be "political madness" after the Gulf oil spill.

The energy giant said it was no longer planning to try and win an exploration licence in Greenland, , Britain's Guardian daily said.

"We are not participating in the bid round," a spokesman for the British firm told the paper without giving details on why the decision was taken.

BP's decision came after Scottish exploration group Cairn Energy revealed on Tuesday it had discovered gas off Greenland's coast and said there may be other hydrocarbon resources in the region.

The news fuelled expectations of a new oil rush, but also sparked concerns among environmental campaigners over the effect of energy firms targeting the area, which is home to blue whales, polar bears and seals.

Start of sidebar. Skip to end of sidebar.
Related CoverageGreenpeace in standoff with Danish warship
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The Australian, 8 Nov 2009End of sidebar. Return to start of sidebar.

Greenpeace activists have travelled to the Arctic on board one of their ships to pressure Cairn into stopping its operations in the area.

The bureau of minerals and petroleum in Greenland's capital Nuuk said the names of successful bidders for exploration licences will be announced in the next couple of weeks, according to the Guardian.

Senior sources told the paper that the Greenland Government and BP had agreed it would be a bad idea for the company to be involved.

"With the Greenpeace ship already harassing Cairn off Greenland - a company which has an exemplary safety record - everyone realised it would be political madness to give the green light to BP," one source said.

The Gulf of Mexico oil spill, which started in April with the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon rig, unleashed millions of barrels of oil and caused massive environmental damage.

BP managed to stop oil gushing from the ruptured well last month, but its image has taken a battering and the British firm is facing clean-up and compensation costs running into tens of billions of dollars.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Scientists: First Frozen Repository For Hawaiian Coral Created; Can Be Thawed '1,000 Years From Now'

Scientists: First Frozen Repository For Hawaiian Coral Created; Can Be Thawed '1,000 Years From Now'

MāNOA, Hawaii -- Scientists at the Smithsonian Institution and the Hawai'i Institute of Marine Biology at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa have created the first frozen bank for Hawaiian corals in an attempt to protect them from extinction and to preserve their diversity in Hawaiʻi. Mary Hagedorn, an adjunct faculty member at HIMB and a research scientist with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, leads the laboratory at the HIMB research facilities on Coconut Island in Kaneohe Bay, Oʻahu, that is banking the frozen coral cells.

"Because frozen banked cells are viable, the frozen material can be thawed one, 50 or, in theory, even 1,000 years from now to restore a species or population," said Hagedorn. "In fact, some of the frozen sperm samples have already been thawed and used to fertilize coral eggs to produce developing coral larvae."

Coral reefs are living, dynamic ecosystems that provide invaluable services: They act as nursery grounds for marine fish and invertebrates, provide natural storm barriers for coastlines, purify carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and they are potential sources for undiscovered pharmaceuticals.

However, coral reefs are experiencing unprecedented levels of degradation due to human impact. Globally, greenhouse gasses from burning fossil fuels are warming the oceans, making them more acidic and causing corals to stress and bleach. As a result, the corals are more susceptible to emergent diseases. Locally, reefs are affected by pollution and sedimentation from poor land-use practices, nutrient run-off from farms and waste-treatment plants, and destructive practices such as dynamite fishing and trawls.

Unless action is taken now, coral reefs and many of the animals that depend on them may cease to exist within the next 40 years, causing the first global extinction of a worldwide ecosystem during current history.

"This work highlights the importance of basic science and discovery for developing creative solutions to pressing conservation problems," said Steve Monfort, director of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. "We are confident that this effort will one day help to restore these vital marine ecosystems."

Saving reef habitat alone will not stop corals' decline because many of the most serious threats are global rather than local. Done properly over time, researchers can store samples of frozen material and place them back into ecosystems to infuse new genes and vigor into natural populations, thereby enhancing the health and viability of wild stocks.

Currently, the Hawaiian bank contains frozen sperm and embryonic cells from mushroom coral (Fungia scutaria) and rice coral (Montipora capitata), but it is only a beginning. The researchers hope to store many of the corals that are important to Hawaiian reefs.

Helping with this project are two student summer interns supported by the Smithsonian Women's Committee: Malia Paresa (a senior at the University of Southern California) and Kelly Martorana (a recent graduate of California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo). This internship was an incredible experience for both women, but especially relevant to Paresa, who grew up five minutes from Kaneohe Bay.

"Before this internship, I had no idea how dire the situation was that many coral species are facing, and now I am much more aware that all of their hardships are caused by anthropogenic activities," said Paresa. "As a native Hawaiian and Kaneohe native, I take great pride in making a difference in the future of Hawaiian coral reefs. If we act quickly enough, we can make a difference to their future."

In addition, visiting scientist, Dr. Kamal Sarma from the Central Agricultural Research Institute on Nicobar and Andaman Islands, and Virginia Carter and Ann Farrell from the Smithsonian are assisting.

This research is funded by the Smithsonian, HIMB, Morris Animal Foundation and Anela Kolohe Foundation.

New microbe discovered eating oil spill in Gulf

New microbe discovered eating oil spill in Gulf

WASHINGTON – The Gulf of Mexico oil spill has revealed a previously unknown type of oil-eating bacteria, which is suddenly flourishing.

Scientists discovered the new microbe while studying the underwater dispersion of millions of gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf following the explosion of BP's Deepwater Horizon drilling rig.

And the microbe works without significantly depleting oxygen in the water, researchers led by Terry Hazen at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory reported Tuesday in the online journal Science Express.

"Our findings, which provide the first data ever on microbial activity from a deepwater dispersed oil plume, suggest" a great potential for bacteria to help dispose of oil plumes in the deep-sea, Hazen said in a statement.

Environmentalists have raised concerns about the giant oil spill and the underwater plume of dispersed oil, particularly its potential effects on sea life. A report just last week described a 22-mile long underwater mist of tiny oil droplets.

"Our findings show that the influx of oil profoundly altered the microbial community by significantly stimulating deep-sea" cold temperature bacteria that are closely related to known petroleum-degrading microbes, Hazen reported.

Before the spill the microbes in the deepest parts of the Gulf were not well known and there was little carbon present in the area of cool temperatures and high pressure.

"We deployed on two ships to determine the physical, chemical and microbiological properties of the deepwater oil plume," Hazen said. "The oil escaping from the damaged wellhead represented an enormous carbon input to the water column."

Their findings are based on more than 200 samples collected from 17 deepwater sites between May 25 and June 2. They found that the dominant microbe in the oil plume is a new species, closely related to members of Oceanospirillales.

This microbe thrives in cold water, with temperatures in the deep recorded at 5 degrees Celsius (41 Fahrenheit).

Hazen suggested that the bacteria may have adapted over time due to periodic leaks and natural seeps of oil in the Gulf.

Scientists also had been concerned that oil-eating activity by microbes would consume large amounts of oxygen in the water, creating a "dead zone" dangerous to other life. But the new study found that oxygen saturation outside the oil plume was 67 percent, while within the plume it was 59 percent.

The research was supported by an existing grant with the Energy Biosciences Institute, a partnership led by the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Illinois that is funded by a $500 million, 10-year grant from BP. Other support came from the U.S. Department of Energy and the University of Oklahoma Research Foundation.

Sciencexpress is the online edition of the journal Science.

Monday, August 23, 2010

State undertakes shipwreck survey

Sunshine Coast Daily: State undertakes shipwreck survey

A SURVEY of Queensland’s historic shipwrecks has been launched to provide a better understanding of where the historic sites are off Queensland’s coast.

Climate Change and Sustainability Minister Kate Jones said the survey would begin in Moreton Bay and be carried out by the Heritage Branch of the Department of Environment and Resource Management.

The heritage branch has recently taken over management of Queensland’s historic shipwrecks from the Queensland Museum.

“Queensland’s coastline is littered with untold stories under the sea,” Ms Jones said.

“We know there are more than 1000 historic shipwrecks or abandoned vessels along the state’s coast, as well as in our rivers and bays. But in most cases, data on these shipwrecks is scant and often inaccurate.

“Every one of these ships is an irreplaceable archaeological site which can tell us much about the lives of past generations of Queenslanders and others who visited our shores.

“While some wrecks in the Moreton Bay area are well-known such as the Aarhus, there are approximately 50 wrecks reported in and around the Bay listed on the National Shipwreck Database.

“In many cases, the locations listed are imprecise and we know very little about the history of the individual wrecks.

“Through this survey, we will tap into the broad range of skills and equipment within our heritage and marine parks units to locate as many wrecks as possible and determine their significance.”

Ms Jones said there was a wealth of information about unidentified shipwrecks among members of the community, historical researchers and diving groups.

The first stage in this survey would be community consultation, with the department calling on members of the public, research organisations and diving groups to help build up the bank of knowledge on historic sites, starting with Moreton Bay.

“We know the people of Queensland are passionate about our underwater history – and there is a real interest in many of our shipwrecks among the diving community in particular. By working with the community we hope to build a clearer picture about the wrecks off our coast.”

The survey would also locate different types of underwater heritage objects other than shipwrecks, including aircraft.

Anyone with information or enquires about Queensland’s historic shipwrecks should contact DERM’s Customer Service Centre on 1300-130372 or e-mail.

Sea temperature rise prompts coral watch

Star Advertiser: Sea temperature rise prompts coral watch

Federal marine scientists are watching for a potential high level of coral die-off because of a rise in temperature in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands -- an area that has the highest rate of species found nowhere else in the world.

The "bleaching watch" comes at a time when scientists are discovering new species that could provide clues to the condition of sea life before human contact in the main Hawaiian Islands.

Coral bleaching occurs when, confronted with excessively warm water, the coral expels algae that is the source of its nutrients and ultimately turns white and dies.

Randall Kosaki, the chief scientist on a recent 30-day expedition, said the crew experienced sea surface temperatures as high as 84 degrees.

"That's unusually warm for these northern reefs, and the warmest month of the year, September, is right around the corner," Kosaki said.

Jim Maragos, a scientist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said the research crew found coral species never recorded in the Hawaiian archipelago.

"Several of these will no doubt turn out to be species that are completely new to science," said Maragos, a coral expert.

Scientist have tentatively identified 10 new coral species but have to confirm their findings through further tests and research.

Kosaki said while about 25 percent of the main Hawaiian Islands has marine fish that exist nowhere else in the world, the Northwest Islands' deep reef has a higher endemic rate: more than 90 percent.

"That really establishes us as one of the focal points for conservation and biodiversity globally. ... It's really going to put us on the map," Kosaki said.

"It's really an outstanding result. ... This is the highest rate of endemism recorded in any marine ecosystem on earth. These reefs are a global treasure trove of biodiversity."

Kosaki said this discovery underscores the importance of the protected status of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. The islands are part of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, encompassing almost 140,000 square miles.

Kosaki said studies of reefs usually occur between 20 and 70 feet but that expeditions this year and last year included dives to depths of 250 feet discovering deep coral reef fish.

The trips went as far as Kure Atoll, the northernmost coral reef.

Kosaki said scientists have recorded a higher percentage of Hawaiian species found nowhere else in the world in deep reefs as they traveled north, where isolation enabled the species to evolve.

Kosaki said part of the evolution involves tolerating cooler temperatures.

He said in some individual fish counts in deep reefs, scientists found 98 percent to 99 percent Hawaiian endemic species.

"That's almost unheard of in a marine ecosystem," he said.

As a way to preserve the diversity, scientists have taken samples of coral with plans to grow them at the Waikiki Aquarium.

Scientists said in the event of a coral die-off, the samples grown at the aquarium could be used to preserve and perhaps restore a species.

The aquarium plans to open a marine exhibit of the Northwest Hawaiian Islands early next year.

Britain prepares for mackerel war with Iceland and Faroe Islands

Britain prepares for mackerel war with Iceland and Faroe Islands
Scottish fishermen and politicians call for EU action after two countries raise combined quota from 27,000 to 215,000 tonnes

It's summer, and off the coast of Britain anglers are enjoying a blue-grey abundance of mackerel. Barbecued, smoked, or baked in cider, this firm favourite provides a seasonal guilt-free treat, certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).

But in a dispute echoing the cod wars of the 1970s, Britain and the EU are on the brink of a mackerel war with Iceland and the Faroe Islands, who have ripped up agreed quotas, unilaterally awarding themselves the lion's share of north Atlantic stock.

UK fishermen are furious; the EU is condemnatory. Those in the industry, meanwhile, claim that the dispute puts at risk not only the future of Britain's pelagic fishing industry, but the future of mackerel itself as a healthy, sustainable fish.

Last week 50 fishermen blockaded Peterhead port in Aberdeenshire, physically preventing the Faroese vessel Jupiter from offloading 1,100 tonnes of the fish to a processing plant.

Now a prominent Scottish MEP is calling for sanctions against Iceland and the Faroes, an island group situated between Britain and Iceland and an autonomous province of Denmark.

Labelling them "modern-day Viking raiders" engaging in a free-for-all, Struan Stevenson, the senior vice-president on the European parliament's fisheries committee, says only the threat of sanctions can bring the two nations to heel.

"Negotiations are ongoing. But what will it take short of announcing we are going to institute a trade war?

"That is what I am actually suggesting now. We should use that as threat. We should follow the example of the fishermen in Peterhead. We should threaten to close all the EU ports to Faroese and Icelandic vessels, block all imports from these countries, and show them that we mean business," he said.

It should be a key issue in Iceland's EU accession talks, he said. "Here is a nation coming to the table to become a member of the EU. Yet, what have they given us? A volcanic ash cloud. Financial problems with their referendum and refusing to pay the debts they owe Britain. And now they are acting in this extraordinarily aggressive fashion over fish stocks.

"What they are doing is effectively illegal, unreported, unregulated fishing."

Part of the problem would seem to be climate change, with mackerel seeking colder waters. Seeing such abundance, cash-strapped Iceland has hiked an agreed quota of 2,000 tonnes up to 130,000 tonnes. The Faroes, which along with the EU and Norway is a signatory to the Coastal Waters Agreement, did likewise, arbitrarily increasing their 25,000-tonne quota to 85,000 tonnes.

If maintained, said WWF Scotland, the combined 2010 mackerel quota would result in the fish being exploited 35% above the scientific recommendation set by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, and spell a "death sentence" for precious fish stock.

Ian Gatt, the leader of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen's Association, believes that puts the future of the industry, worth £135m last year, in serious jeopardy. If no agreement is reached, the Scottish quota could be halved, the market will weaken and thousands of jobs will be at risk.

Moreover, the MSC accreditation relied on by environmentally conscious consumers and awarded because of the way British, Norwegian and EU fisheries have sympathetically fished mackerel would be lost, along with consumer confidence. "Not only us, but everyone who has got the MSC certification is going to lose it – at one stroke," said Gatt.

Norway has taken immediate action, closing its ports to trawlers from both countries. But the EU, which has expressed its concern, has yet to decide on action, to the frustration of the fishing industry.

Iceland is a newcomer to serious mackerel fishing. Along with the Faroes, it built an expensive fleet to fish blue whiting, but stocks collapsed.

"So they are sitting there with these new, modern ships," said Ernie Simpson, 63, a retired skipper who owns the Fraserburgh-registered Christina S with his son, Allan. "Better and bigger boats than we have, some of them. And no blue whiting to catch. So now they are turning to mackerel."

He was at the Peterhead blockade because, he says, more than 90% of the Scottish pelagic fleet depends on mackerel. "The EU has sent lovely messages of support. But you can't live on sympathy."

Iceland believes it is justified. The Federation of Icelandic Fishing Vessel Owners said it "has every right to fish for mackerel within the Icelandic jurisdiction" and that "Iceland's mackerel fishery is therefore equally as legitimate as the EU's or Norway's".

The Faroese government has warned Scotland that its excellent relations and bilateral trade agreements are at risk following the failure of Scottish police to stop Tuesday's blockade.

Meanwhile the Scottish government has joined forces with the Norwegians in calling for the EU to apply more pressure on the two nations.

But Stevenson believes the intransigence of Iceland's fishermen will be hard to moderate, buoyed as they still are by the cod wars of the 50s and 70s when Icelandic trawlers cut the nets of British rivals, forcing the Royal Navy to intervene.

"They celebrate the fact they think they won the cod war, to the extent that the Icelandic gunboat that actually opened fire on a British navy vessel is now a celebrated restaurant in Reykjavik harbour. They are harking back to this great victory, thinking they can do it again," he said.

"But they have another think coming. Because it's not just Britain they are up against this time. It's the whole of the EU and their close neighbour in Norway."

Gatt hopes last week's protest will not have to be repeated, but warns Icelandic and Faroese boats to expect more of the same.

"For our guys, it really was rubbing salt in the wound for that boat to come down and say they wanted to land fish in Scotland. Over our dead bodies," he vowed. "They won't be getting the famed warm, Scottish welcome."

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Discovery Of 650-Million-Year-Old Sponge-Like Creatures Pushes Back Fossil Record; Reef-Dwelling Creatures On 'Snowball Earth'

Underwater Times: Discovery Of 650-Million-Year-Old Sponge-Like Creatures Pushes Back Fossil Record; Reef-Dwelling Creatures On 'Snowball Earth'

PRINCETON, New Jersey -- In findings that push back the clock on the scientific world's thinking about when animal life appeared on Earth, Princeton scientists may have discovered the oldest fossils of animal bodies, suggesting that primitive sponge-like creatures were living in ocean reefs about 650 million years ago. The shelly fossils, found beneath a 635 million-year-old glacial deposit in South Australia, represent the earliest evidence of animal body forms in the current fossil record by at least 70 million years.

Previously, the oldest known fossils of hard-bodied animals were from two reef-dwelling organisms that lived about 550 million years ago -- Namacalathus, discovered in 2000 by John Grotzinger's group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Cloudina, first found in 1972 by Gerard Germs of the University of Cape Town, South Africa. Additionally, there are controversial fossils of soft-bodied animals that date to the latter part of the Ediacaran period between 577 and 542 million years ago. These fossils were first observed in the 1940s by Australian geologist Reginald Sprigg, and the oldest evidence to date of undisputed Ediacaran animals -- organisms called Kimberella -- was found in sediment about 555 million years old in Australia and Russia.

Princeton geosciences professor Adam Maloof and graduate student Catherine Rose happened upon the new fossils while working on a project focused on the severe ice age that marked the end of the Cryogenian period 635 million years ago. Their findings, published in the Aug. 17 issue of the journal Nature Geosciences, provide the first direct evidence that animal life existed before -- and probably survived -- the severe "snowball Earth" event known as the Marinoan glaciation that left much of the globe covered in ice at the end of the Cryogenian.

"We were accustomed to finding rocks with embedded mud chips, and at first this is what we thought we were seeing," Maloof said. "But then we noticed these repeated shapes that we were finding everywhere -- wishbones, rings, perforated slabs and anvils. By the second year, we realized we had stumbled upon some sort of organism, and we decided to analyze the fossils. No one was expecting that we would find animals that lived before the ice age, and since animals probably did not evolve twice, we are suddenly confronted with the question of how some relative of these reef-dwelling animals survived the 'snowball Earth.'"

Find viewed as significant

"These scientists have found that animals may have appeared on Earth 90 million years earlier than previously known," said H. Richard Lane, program director for the Directorate for Geosciences of the National Science Foundation's Division of Earth Sciences, which funded the research. "This is comparable to resetting modern times to begin during the late Cretaceous."

Analyzing the fossils turned out to be easier said than done, as the composition and location of the fossils made it such that they could not be removed from the surrounding rock using conventional techniques, nor could they be imaged using X-ray scanning techniques. This is because X-rays are only able to distinguish between materials with different densities, which is why they can be used to image bones that are inside the human body or buried within a rock. But the most ancient skeletal fossils are made not of bone, but of calcite -- the same material that makes up the rock matrix in which they are embedded. Therefore X-rays could not be used to "illuminate" the newly discovered fossils and the researchers had to develop and refine another method.

Maloof, Rose and their collaborators teamed up with professionals at Situ Studio, a Brooklyn-based design and digital fabrication studio, to create three-dimensional digital models of two individual fossils that were embedded in the surrounding rock. As part of the process, team members shaved off 50 microns of sample at a time -- about half the width of a human hair -- and photographed the polished rock surface each time. The team ground and imaged nearly 500 slices of the rock.

Using specialized software techniques developed specifically for this project, the researchers then "stacked" the outlines on top of one another to create a complete three-dimensional model of the creature. The technique is similar to the way in which CAT scan technology combines a series of two-dimensional X-rays to create a three-dimensional image of the inside of the body. The technique that was developed served to automate the process -- turning a prohibitively time-consuming task into an efficient and effective method for fossil reconstruction.

"For Situ Studio, the most exciting aspect of this collaboration is that we were able to successfully employ knowledge developed within an architectural practice to help solve problems in an entirely different field -- applying design tools to spatial problems on a completely different scale," said Bradley Samuels, a founding partner of Situ Studio. "It became an exercise in marrying disparate bodies of knowledge to address pressing questions in the geosciences."

When they began the digital reconstruction process, the shape of some of the two-dimensional slices made the researchers suspect they might be dealing with the previously discovered Namacalathus, a goblet-shaped creature featuring a long body stalk topped with a hollow ball. But their model revealed irregularly shaped, centimeter-scale animals with a network of internal canals.

These critters looked nothing like Namacalathus.

After considering a variety of alternatives, the researchers decided that the fossil organisms most closely resembled sponges -- simple filter-feeding animals that extract food from water as it flows through specialized body channels. Previously, the oldest known undisputed fossilized sponges were about 520 million years old, dating to the Cambrian Period.

But evidence has suggested that sponges appeared on the scene much earlier in Earth history. For example, scientists have conducted detailed analyses of genetic material in a wide range of organisms to create "molecular clocks" that suggest how long ago a given species evolved. According to these clocks, sponges existed millions of years before the Cambrian. This has been supported by the relatively recent discovery of lipid biomarkers -- essentially, traces of recalcitrant fats that resist degradation over millions of years -- in sedimentary rocks from Oman of nearly the same age as those studied by the Maloof group in Australia.

"For many years the great Marinoan ice age has formed a hard floor to the fossil record of animals, even though most molecular clocks suggest a deeper history, at least for sponges," said evolutionary biologist Andrew Knoll of Harvard University, who was not part of the research team. "Adam and his students are digging deeper and finding that there is much to catch our attention in pre-glacial carbonate rocks … . I'm convinced that the structures Adam's group have found are not simply shards of material, formed and deposited by purely physical processes. That said, it isn't easy to be sure what they are. Adam's group has carefully spelled out the biological alternatives and built a reasonable case for interpreting the structures as sponge-like animals. At the very least, this should drive paleontologists back to the field to seek similar or better evidence in other rocks of comparable age."

In future research, Maloof and his collaborators intend to refine the three-dimensional digital reconstruction technique to automate and increase the speed of the process. This could have a significant impact on paleontology, enabling the analysis of myriad early fossils that are currently inaccessible to the tools of modern science.

In addition to Maloof and Rose, Princeton researchers on the team included geosciences professor Frederik Simons, former postdoctoral fellow Claire Calmet, Nan Yao, the director of the Imaging and Analysis Center in the Princeton Institute for the Science and Technology of Materials (PRISM), and PRISM senior research specialist Gerald Poirier. The team also included Douglas Erwin of the Smithsonian Institution and Samuels, Robert Beach, Basar Girit, Wesley Rozen, Sigfus Briedfjord and Aleksey Lukyanov of Situ Studio. The work was funded by the National Science Foundation.

Giant squid: How do you film one? Giant squid: How do you film one?

The search for the world's last great sea monster is on. But given the reclusive nature of giant squid, the question is exactly how can the deep-sea leviathans be filmed in action up to 3,000 feet below the ocean's surface?

Giant squid can reach up to 60 feet in length. The carnivores have eyes as large as a human head. Until recently, what little was known about them came from dead specimens that washed ashore or got snagged in fishing nets.

It wasn't until December 2006 that zoologist Tsunemi Kubodera of Japan's National Science Museum recorded the first video of a live giant squid.

But mere glimpses of the giant squid won't suffice for an ambitious new project, spearheaded by the Discovery Channel, the Science Channel and the Japanese production firm NHK Enterprises. The aim is to create a two-part documentary featuring the giant squid (Architeuthis dux).

Veteran filmmaker Mike deGruy was one of a group of experts that gathered at Discovery recently to brainstorm about how to film the creature in its habitat.

"You're dealing with an animal that while it is large, it's in an environment that's far larger," he said. "It's not like a piece of coral that's on the ground and all you have to do is find it. It's moving constantly."

Thanks to Kubodera's research, Japan's Ogasawara Islands will likely be the prime location to start the search. Local fishermen are known to catch giant squid in the region, and it's also prime habitat for the sperm whale, the giant squid's main predator.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Report: 80% Of Gulf Spill Oil Remains In The Ecosystem; 'the Oil Is Still Out There'

Report: 80% Of Gulf Spill Oil Remains In The Ecosystem; 'the Oil Is Still Out There'

ATHENS, Georgia -- A report released today by the Georgia Sea Grant and the University of Georgia concludes that up to 79 percent of the oil released into the Gulf of Mexico from the Deepwater Horizon well has not been recovered and remains a threat to the ecosystem.

The report, authored by five prominent marine scientists, strongly contradicts media reports that suggest that only 25 percent of the oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill remains.

"One major misconception is that oil that has dissolved into water is gone and, therefore, harmless," said Charles Hopkinson, director of Georgia Sea Grant and professor of marine sciences in the University of Georgia Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. "The oil is still out there, and it will likely take years to completely degrade. We are still far from a complete understanding of what its impacts are."

Co-authors on the paper include Jay Brandes, associate professor, Skidaway Institute of Oceanography; Samantha Joye, professor of marine sciences, UGA; Richard Lee, professor emeritus, Skidaway; and Ming-yi Sun, professor of marine sciences UGA.

The group analyzed data from the Aug. 2 National Incident Command Report, which calculated an "oil budget" that was widely interpreted to suggest that only 25 percent of the oil from the spill remained.

Hopkinson notes that the reports arrive at different conclusions largely because the Sea Grant and UGA scientists estimate that the vast majority of the oil classified as dispersed, dissolved or residual is still present, whereas the NIC report has been interpreted to suggest that only the "residual" form of oil is still present.

Hopkinson said that his group also estimated how much of the oil could have evaporated, degraded or weathered as of the date of the report. Using a range of reasonable evaporation and degradation estimates, the group calculated that 70-79 percent of oil spilled into the Gulf still remains. The group showed that it was impossible for all the dissolved oil to have evaporated because only oil at the surface of the ocean can evaporate into the atmosphere and large plumes of oil are trapped in deep water.

Another difference is that the NIC report estimates that 4.9 million barrels of oil were released from the wellhead, while the Sea Grant report uses a figure of 4.1 million barrels since .8 million barrels were piped directly from the well to surface ships and, therefore, never entered Gulf waters.

On a positive note, the group noted that natural processes continue to transform, dilute, degrade and evaporate the oil. They add that circular current known as the Franklin Eddy is preventing the Loop Current from bringing oil-contaminated water from the Gulf to the Atlantic, which bodes well for the East Coast.

Joye said that both the NIC report and the Sea Grant report are best estimates and emphasizes the need for a sustained and coordinated research effort to better understand the impacts of what has become the world's worst maritime oil spill. She warned that neither report accounted for hydrocarbon gasses such as methane in their oil budgets.

"That's a gaping hole," Joye said, "because hydrocarbon gasses are a huge portion of what was ejected from the well."

Monday, August 16, 2010

Obama urges tourism to aid Gulf economy post-spill

Obama urges tourism to aid Gulf economy post-spill

Barack Obama says the Gulf environment will be restored "no matter how long it takes"

President Obama has urged Americans to "come on down and visit" Florida to help revive the economy stricken by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Mr Obama said oil was no longer flowing into the Gulf but "our job is not finished and we are not going anywhere until it is."

The president is visiting Florida with his wife and elder daughter.

On Friday, US incident commander Adm Thad Allen said work would continue to seal the leaking well for good.

The president paid tribute to the US Coast Guard and others who had "toiled day and night" to plug the leak.

'Clean, open, safe'

He urged Americans to take their holidays in Florida, saying: "As a result of the clean-up effort, the beaches are clean, open and safe."

Tourism is one of the mainstays of the Florida economy. This year, however, much of the coastline is deserted, says the BBC's Andy Gallacher in Miami.

The dramatic drop in tourists is down to a perception that all the beaches along the Florida panhandle, as it is known, are coated in oil, our correspondent says, even though that is not the case.

Mr Obama said he would maintain the pressure on BP to pay out compensation claims from the $20bn (£12.8bn) fund set up for that purpose.

The Obamas are taking a brief holiday in the Florida panhandle Any delay was "unacceptable", he said, especially for those who had lost their sole source of income as a result of the spill.

Meanwhile, BP will get the go-ahead to finish sealing the blown-out well, Adm Allen has said.

However, he wants further tests completed before drilling on the relief well resumes.

BP has said its "static kill" procedure, in which mud and cement were pumped into the top of the well, has worked.

But Adm Allen said it was not clear whether that plug that had formed was enough to block the damaged well permanently, and he wants work on the relief well to continue.

Drilling has been suspended because of bad weather in the Gulf of Mexico.

Once all the tests have been completed, it will take 96 hours (four days) before drilling can resume.

That means the relief well will not be completed before next weekend at the earliest.

On 20 April 2010, eleven workers died in an explosion on the BP-contracted Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico. As well as the human tragedy, the oil spilling into the sea poses a risk to wildlife and local industries. Here we examine the series of attempts there have been to control the leak.

20 April: A surge in oil and gas causes an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig. The blowout preventer system of valves (BOP) at the well head on the seabed is believed to have failed.

22 April: The oil rig sinks and the riser pipe that connected it to the well falls to the seabed. Oil and gas continue to flow from the pipe and blowout preventer, causing a five mile (8km) oil slick.

The blowout preventer is meant to be the ultimate fail safe against pressure surges. Its valves should have closed, shutting off the oil and gas from the reservoir and sealing the well.

The initial failure of the blowout preventer, and subsequent efforts to remotely shut it down, resulted in a constant leak of oil and gas from holes in the bent riser pipe on the seabed and above the BOP.

As oil continues to flow into the sea, initial efforts are made on the surface to contain the oil using booms and dispersants. The response grows daily and soon hundreds of vessels are involved, including skimmers, tugs and recovery ships as well as dozens of aircraft and multiple mobile offshore drilling units.

2 May: BP starts drilling the first of two relief wells. The aim is to connect with the original well and then pump in heavy liquid to stem the flow of oil. Drilling for the second starts on 16 May. Both are expected to take two to three months to complete.

5 May: BP successfully stops the flow of oil from the end of the drilling pipe - one of three leak points. The first attempt to stop the main leak involves lowering a huge containment dome over the site. This fails on 8 May as the dome is blocked by frozen hydrate crystals caused by leaking gas.

16 May: A tube is inserted into the leaking pipe to funnel off leaking oil and gas to a ship on the surface. Until this point it is estimated that oil was leaking at a rate of 40,000 barrels a day.

26 May: BP starts its "top kill" procedure in an attempt to plug the well by pumping mud into the blowout preventer from a vessel on the surface.

A manifold system of pipes and valves is connected to the BOP and a drill pipe from the vessel.

Pipes from the manifold are attached to the "choke and kill" bypass systems inside the blowout preventer. This gives access to the BOP system's main valves.

Heavy mud with a large proportion of clay is pumped into the BOP under high pressure. The aim is to force enough mud into the well to stop it flowing.

A "junk shot" mixture of materials such as rubber, golf balls and rope is injected in an effort to help block the flow.

29 May: BP announces that the top kill system has failed and the oil spill continues.

2 June: BP starts the next shut down procedure.

Remotely operated shears are used to cut the damaged riser pipe.

A wire cutter is then used in an attempt to saw through the leaking pipe close to the top section of the blowout preventer. The blade gets stuck and the pipe is eventually cut by remotely-operated shears.

After removing the pipe, a special cap is lowered onto the top section enabling the leaking oil and gas to be funnelled to a drill ship. The amount of oil collected through this system rises to an estimated 15,000 barrels a day.

June - July: The next addition to the system will be to use the hoses and manifold system from the failed top kill operation to siphon oil and gas from the blowout preventer to the surface vessel, helping increase the volume being captured.

Then BP aims to provide a more permanent containment system by directing oil and gas to free floating riser pipes that can be attached to containment vessels by flexible hoses.

This long-term option is designed to enable the hoses to be disconnected and reconnected more effectively during the imminent hurricane season. Eventually the fixed connector pipe will also be replaced by a floating system.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

USF says government tried to squelch their oil plume findings

Tampa USF says government tried to squelch their oil plume findings

A month after the Deepwater Horizon disaster began, scientists from the University of South Florida made a startling announcement. They had found signs that the oil spewing from the well had formed a 6-mile-wide plume snaking along in the deepest recesses of the gulf.

The reaction that USF announcement received from the Coast Guard and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the federal agencies that sponsored their research:

Shut up.

"I got lambasted by the Coast Guard and NOAA when we said there was undersea oil," USF marine sciences dean William Hogarth said. Some officials even told him to retract USF's public announcement, he said, comparing it to being "beat up" by federal officials.

The USF scientists weren't alone. Vernon Asper, an oceanographer at the University of Southern Mississippi, was part of a similar effort that met with a similar reaction. "We expected that NOAA would be pleased because we found something very, very interesting," Asper said. "NOAA instead responded by trying to discredit us. It was just a shock to us."

NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco, in comments she made to reporters in May, expressed strong skepticism about the existence of undersea oil plumes — as did BP's then-CEO, Tony Hayward.

"She basically called us inept idiots," Asper said. "We took that very personally."

Lubchenco confirmed Monday that her agency told USF and other academic institutions involved in the study of undersea plumes that they should hold off talking so openly about it. "What we asked for, was for people to stop speculating before they had a chance to analyze what they were finding," Lubchenco said. "We think that's in everybody's interest. … We just wanted to try to make sure that we knew something before we speculated about it."

"We had solid evidence, rock solid," Asper said. "We weren't speculating." If he had to do it over again, he said, he'd do it all exactly the same way, despite Lubchenco's ire.

Coast Guard officials did not respond to a request for comment on Hogarth's accusation.

The discovery of multiple undersea plumes of oil droplets was eventually verified by one of NOAA's own research vessels. And last month USF scientists announced they at last could match the oil droplets in the undersea plumes to the millions of barrels of oil that gushed from the collapsed well until it was capped July 15.

"What we have learned completely changes the idea of what an oil spill is," USF scientist David Hollander said then. "It has gone from a two-dimensional disaster to a three-dimensional catastrophe."

Now Lubchenco is not only convinced the undersea plumes exist, but she is predicting that some of the spill's most significant impacts will be caused by their effect on juvenile sea creatures such as bluefin tuna. Lubchenco and her staff say they are now working smoothly with USF and other academic institutions in investigating the consequences of the largest marine oil spill in history.

However, Hogarth said, not all is hunky-dory.

USF's first NOAA-sponsored voyage to take samples after Deepwater Horizon, the one that turned up evidence of the undersea plumes, was designed to gather evidence for use in an eventual court case against BP and other oil companies involved in the disaster. At the end of the voyage, USF turned its samples over to NOAA, expecting to get either a shared analysis or the samples themselves back. So far, Hogarth said, they've received neither.

NOAA's top oil spill scientist, Steve Murawski, said Monday that he was "sure we will release the data" at some point. However, he said, because NOAA has collected so many samples over the past three months, when it comes to the samples from USF's trip in May, "I'm not sure where they are."

Lubchenco's agency came under fire last week for a new report that said "the vast majority" of the oil from Deepwater Horizon had been taken care of. Scientists who read the report closely said it actually said half the oil was still unaccounted for.

Lubchenco said anyone who read the report as saying the oil was gone read it wrong.

"Out of sight and diluted does not mean benign," she said.

Monday, August 9, 2010

U.S. Sportfishing Vessel Attacked Off Costa Rica By Venezuela's Socialist Fisheries; 'Its Crew Obnoxiously Celebrated Its Victory'

U.S. Sportfishing Vessel Attacked Off Costa Rica By Venezuela's Socialist Fisheries; 'Its Crew Obnoxiously Celebrated Its Victory'

GARZA, Costa Rica -- A U.S. based world fisheries conservation association is demanding disciplinary action after the attack by a commercial Venezuelan tuna purse seining vessel and helicopter on a sportfishing boat off the coast of Costa Rica.

The incident has been reported and posted with photos on The Billfish Foundation's website

On Sunday August 1, at approximately 3 p.m., the Silver-Rod-O, a U.S. sportfishing vessel owned by TBF member Gary Carter, of Duluth, Ga., was assaulted by the Venezuelan flagged tuna purse seiner La Rosa Mistica while fishing approximately 15 miles off the coast of Garza, Costa Rica.

According to Carter the Silver-Rod-O was fishing around a school of spinner dolphin for yellowfin tuna and billfish, when the helicopter from La Rosa Mistica began circling the area.

"We were celebrating one of our guest's first-ever sailfish release, when the seiner veered from its course and headed directly toward our boat. The helicopter then began making passes over the anglers and as the seiner came closer and began setting its net, the helicopter started dropping incendiary devises around the Silver-Rod-O and the school of spinners."

"Several explosives landed within 50 meters of the boat. The purse seiner continued to power straight toward our boat," Carter said, "It was threatening to either encircle us in their net or to plow us into the sea unless we abandoned the school of dolphin. Rather than endanger our guests, we retreated and watched and listened as the La Rosa Mistica closed the net and its crew obnoxiously celebrated its victory."

TBF President Ellen Peel said, "This is the tenth vessel attacked off Costa Rica in the past two years. In June of 2008 nine vessels were similarly attacked in two incidents off of Quepos and Los Suenos. TBF has previously appealed to the Costa Rican Fisheries and Aquaculture Institute INCOPESCA (Instituto Costarricense de Pesca y Acuicultura) to take punitive action against these purse seine vessels, fishing in Costa Rican waters under Costa Rican licenses to no avail.

"I have sent a letter to the new Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla with copies to Second Vice President Luis Liberman, the Minister of Agriculture Gloria Abraham, Vice Minister of Agriculture Xinia Chaves, Minister of Tourism Carlos Ricardo Benavides and Luis Dobles President of INCOPESCA, demanding that an investigation into this incident and appropriate action against the captain and owners of La Rosa Mistica be launched immediately.

"We are also notifying U.S. Ambassador to Costa Rica Anne Slaughter Andrew of this attack," said Peel.

The purse seiner is owned by Ingopesca, S.A. and registered out of the port of Callao in Venezuela. It is not known if this is one of the 30 trawling vessels expropriated from private owners by Venezuela President Hugo Chavez's government in the spring of 2009 for use with setting up fish processing plants there.

Joan Vernon, TBF Board member and like Carter is a part-time resident of Costa Rica was outraged by the attack.

"The Costa Rican government has to do something to show these foreign seiners that this sort of behavior will not be tolerated before someone gets injured or killed out there," she said. "Already we are hearing reports of local captains arming themselves in case of more such incidents."

Costa Rica licenses many foreign purse seine vessels to fish in their national waters and land tuna to be processed in Costs Rica.

"It is ironic that another such assault has occurred just a few weeks before TBF formally presents the results of its study on the relative economic contribution of sports and commercial fishing in Costa Rica to government officials in San Jose," noted TBF scientist Dr. Russell Nelson, adding "We have documented that sports fishing tourism contributes more to the Costa Rican gross national economy than commercial fishing, adding over $599 million annually, and $138 million of that comes directly from folks like Gary Carter who maintain a vessel and crew in that nation."

Peel concluded, "If Costa Rica won't address this sort of outrage and also take better care of the marine resources like sailfish and marlin that drive this economic engine, they will find people moving elsewhere and taking their money with them."

She also noted within the past month another Central American nation issued a decree banning purse seining in its waters.

"In July, Panama's President Ricardo Martinelli issued an executive order prohibiting purse seine vessels from fishing within the nation's waters – a much wiser stance, one that allows commercial fishing beyond 200 miles and recreational fishing within the 200 mile zone."

TBF has been working with the numerous governments worldwide – some for over a decade – for the expansion of conservation measures and laws to protect billfish, mainly from overfishing coastal fisheries by commercial interests, while implementing tag and release programs for sportsmen.

Oil spill plugged, but more oiled birds than ever are being found

Oil spill plugged, but more oiled birds than ever are being found

More than three weeks after BP capped its gushing oil well, skimming operations have all but stopped and federal scientists say just a quarter of the oil remains in the Gulf of Mexico.

But wildlife officials are rounding up more oiled birds than ever as fledgling birds get stuck in the residual goo and rescuers make initial visits to rookeries they had avoided disturbing during nesting season.

Before BP plugged the well with a temporary cap on July 15, an average of 37 oiled birds were being collected dead or alive each day. Since then, the figure has nearly doubled to 71 per day, according to a Times-Picayune review of daily wildlife rescue reports.

The figures for sea turtles have climbed even higher, with more oiled turtles recovered in the past 10 days than during the spill's first three months.

While the increase in turtles remains a mystery, wildlife officials say there are several factors at play in the seemingly counterintuitive surge in the number of oiled birds recovered since the leak was stopped.

For starters, it took longer for the oil to reach nesting colonies in coastal marshes, creating a lag in the spill's effect on sea birds, said Kyla Hastie, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

She said rescuers also had steered clear of some rookeries until recently.

"We're just now getting into some of the really sensitive areas," Hastie said. "If we had done so earlier, we could have done more harm than good."

Young birds getting caught
Fledgling birds that are just now leaving nesting colonies are particularly vulnerable to landing in oiled areas, said Charlie Hebert, a deputy wildlife branch director for the Fish and Wildlife Service.

"We're seeing more juvenile birds getting oiled as they're trying out their wings," he said.

While skimming operations have nearly stopped because the remaining oil is too dispersed, bird rescue efforts have held steady, with about 45 teams heading out each day, Hebert said.

Though the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that most surface oil in the Gulf has degraded to a thin sheen and BP has called for a 'scaleback' in cleanup efforts, new patches of heavy oil are still being found.
Rescuers are in a race against the clock as the percentage of oiled birds recovered alive has dropped from 56 percent before the well was capped to 41 percent now.

As of Friday, a total of 1,794 oiled birds had been recovered alive, as well as 1,642 that had died, with 73 percent of the birds coming from Louisiana.

Hebert said the spill has primarily affected pelicans, herons, egrets, terns and laughing gulls, but information on how many of each species have been recovered was unavailable.

Wildlife officials had rehabilitated and released 657 birds through Thursday.

A total of 428 oiled sea turtles have been recovered, with 222 coming in just the past 10 days.

"The high number of turtles is a bit of a mystery to us," Hebert said. "We're finding oiled turtles feeding on seaweed drift lines, but there's no apparent oil in the drift lines or on the open water."

The prognosis for sea turtles has been much better than for birds, as just 17 visibly oiled turtles have died.

The wildlife death toll from the Gulf oil spill has been much lower than the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska, which killed an estimated 100,000 to 250,000 seabirds, 2,800 sea otters, 300 harbor seals, 250 bald eagles and up to 22 killer whales.

View full sizeHebert said the Exxon Valdez spill caused such carnage because it occurred close to shore in cold waters that quickly killed oiled birds who lost their waterproofing.

By contrast, birds oiled in the Gulf's warm waters can survive for two or three weeks before they become debilitated enough to be captured by rescuers, Hebert said.

Because the Gulf region sits beneath one of the world's major migratory flyways, a federal conservation agency is paying some farmers and ranchers to flood their fields to provide oil-free feeding and resting areas for millions of birds passing through the region.

The $20 million program will involve up to 150,000 acres of former wetland areas and low-lying land, according to the Agriculture Department's Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Meanwhile, Hebert said nesting islands affected by the spill are "looking a lot better now."

"Most of the oil has been removed," he said. "From a wildlife point of view, I've been very happy with the cleanup efforts.''

Hebert said the recent uptick in the number of oiled birds being recovered is not expected to continue for a prolonged period.

"The oil has stopped flowing and there are no places where big numbers of birds could be hidden from us," he said. "We've already been everywhere."

Spike Lee Bashes U.S. Claim of Vanished Gulf Oil

Spike Lee Bashes U.S. Claim of Vanished Gulf Oil

(AP) Filmmaker Spike Lee is calling a "lie" a U.S. government report that 75 percent of the spilled Gulf Coast oil is gone.

Speaking to a meeting of the Television Critics Association on Saturday, Lee said journalists should expose what he called the real story.

He argued that it's unlikely that "abracadabra, presto chango" the vast majority of the oil has vanished from Gulf of Mexico waters and coastal wetlands.

Federal scientists said last week that nearly three-quarters of the oil has been removed by various artificial or natural means, but that the spill's effect on wildlife will long continue.

Lee was promoting his new documentary about New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. "If God is Willing and Da Creek Don't Rise," a follow-up to his 2006 film about the hurricane, debuts Aug. 23 and 24 on HBO.

Considering how much money Lee has, why doesn't he rent a boat and some scuba divers, and go out and look for the oil that he says is there?

On the other hand, the government has been known to lie before...

Friday, August 6, 2010

Human noise could threaten reef fish

Human noise could threaten reef fish

BRISTOL, England, Aug. 4 (UPI) -- Increasing human noise pollution in the world's oceans could be leading fish away from good habitats to their deaths, U.K. researchers say.

A team from the University of Bristol working on Australia's Great Barrier Reef says baby fish, after developing for weeks in the open ocean, use natural noises to find the coral reefs where they survive and thrive, a university release said Tuesday.

But they found that even short exposure to artificial, human-caused noise led the fish to become attracted to inappropriate noise sources.

"When only a few weeks old, baby reef fish face a monumental challenge in locating and choosing suitable habitat," Steve Simpson of Bristol's school of biological sciences said.

"Reef noise gives them vital information, but if they can learn, remember and become attracted towards the wrong sounds, we might be leading them in all the wrong directions.

"Anthropogenic noise has increased dramatically in recent years, with small boats, shipping, drilling, pile driving and seismic testing now sometimes drowning out the natural sounds of fish and snapping shrimps," Simpson said.

The breakdown of natural behavior could have devastating impacts on populations and future fish stocks, Simpson said.

"If fish accidentally learn to follow the wrong sounds, they could end up stuck next to a construction site or follow ships back out to sea."

Surfer Attempted to Save Beached Great White Shark

If you were a surfer -- that is, someone whose hobby is dressing in black, going in the water, and doing your best impression of shark bait -- what would you do if you found your mortal enemy, a great white shark, stranded on a beach and struggling to survive?

For two men in New South Wales, Australia, the answer to this moral dilemma was obvious: try and save it, while staying away from the teeth.

Last week, Andrew Eckersley was enjoying a walk along Hungry Head beach when he came across a surfer trying to rescue a 10-foot-long juvenile male great white that had somehow become beached. Eckersley quickly joined in the effort, trying to lift the animal with a piece of driftwood.

Ruth Fahey, the photographer who captured the drama (above, and left), told The Coffs Coast Advocate:

...they tried first to dig the sand away beneath it to refloat it but ended up man-handling it back into the water. It was still very sluggish when they got to knee deep water so the surfer waded it out until he was waist deep.

The shark slowly swam away...much slower than the surfer exited the vicinity.

Unfortunately, the story didn't end well. The shark was discovered dead on the beach the next day, its jaws removed by someone looking for a grisly souvenir.

In Australia, it is illegal to possess parts of a great white, which is a threatened species. The penalty is stiff: a fine of AU$220,000 ($201,366), two years in jail, or both. With luck the perpetrator will soon turn in the teeth, or be brought to justice.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Cold wave kills six million fish in Bolivia

Cold wave kills six million fish in Bolivia

La Paz, Aug 4: At least six million fish have died in three rivers of Bolivia due to the intense cold wave sweeping through the country in the past few weeks.

Authorities in the eastern Bolivian province of Santa Cruz declared an alert following the death of fish in the Grande, Pirai and Ichilo rivers that run through the tropical region.

This is an "environmental catastrophe" brought on by the lowest temperatures registered in Santa Cruz in nearly half a century, Gov. Ruben Costas told reporters.

He said that environmental experts have found that the rivers are highly polluted by dead fish, and he warned locals not to use those waters.

The cold wave that gripped the Southern Cone of South America last month caused a severe drop in temperatures in southern and eastern Bolivia, even falling below 0 degrees Celsius.

Bolivia's weather department has forecast that the southern and eastern parts of the country will continue to reel under the cold wave this week. (IANS/EFE)

Sea lion decline leads to emergency closure of Aleutian fisheries

Sea lion decline leads to emergency closure of Aleutian fisheries

SEATTLE - Endangered Steller's sea lions are faring so poorly at the tip of Alaska's Aleutian Islands that the Obama administration is calling for emergency commercial fishing closures for two prominent species: Atka mackerel and Pacific cod.

The proposed shutdown would hit a small, important segment of Alaska's largely Seattle-based fishing industry.

But it's also the latest evidence that sea lions have become a proxy in a simmering war over fishing in Alaska. Both the industry and environmentalists are eyeing the future of the $1 billion-a-year pollock industry in the nearby Bering Sea, a fishery that supplies half the country's catch of fish.

The fishing industry Monday expressed alarm at the severity and swiftness of the administration's proposal, which came in response to a 45 percent drop since 2000 in the western Aleutians' sea- lion population.

The National Marine Fisheries Service wants the closures and other restrictions to take effect early next year.

"What they've put on the table today is a head shot for us," said Dave Wood, counsel for United States Seafood in South Seattle.

The mackerel and cod catches in the western Aleutians bring fishermen about $60 million a year wholesale.

Environmentalists, meanwhile, insist the administration isn't doing enough to curb the use of massive factory trawlers, which drag giant nets through the water and sometimes hop along the seafloor.

"We're still trawling way too much in too many places," said Mike LeVine, counsel for the environmental group Oceana in Alaska. "And sea lions are telling us that trawling and fishing are unbalancing the whole system."

Steller's sea lions for decades were killed by hunters and fishermen and accidentally entangled in nets, their numbers declining in some places by nearly 90 percent since the 1960s.

Decades after those practices stopped, some populations still are struggling to recover. One of the most important of those is the western Aleutians.

Fisheries scientists acknowledged they still can't say with certainty what's causing the decline, but argued that competition for food in some areas is a factor.

The Obama administration said Monday that, while sea-lion populations in the eastern waters of Alaska were stable or on the rise, few sea lions were reproducing in the western Aleutians and the pups that were born had low birth weights -- a sign of malnutrition.

Even before Monday's announcement, the four U.S. senators from Alaska and Washington, prodded by the fishing industry, sent a letter to Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, urging him to slow the closures.

But the agency said it felt it had to move quickly.

"The situation, we believe, is critical in the extreme western portion of their range, where declines are really startling," said Doug Mecum, deputy administrator for the National Marine Fisheries Service in Alaska. "We're compelled to take action as soon as we can."

The administration wants to halt all mackerel and cod fishing from Attu Island to Russian waters. It also wants other restrictions from there east to Dutch Harbor.
While cod fishermen potentially could make up for the loss by fishing in other areas, Mecum conceded the closures would be harder on the mackerel fleet.
"We know we're proposing closing the areas where all the fish are," he said. "But we don't believe we can or should allow what's happening there to continue."

Fishermen scrambled Monday to try to understand the implications of the 800-page scientific document.

"We work that fishery for about three months of the year," said Mike Szymanski, with Fishing Company of Alaska. "It's got the potential to mean substantial layoffs for us, but we can't say yet."

While Alaska's massive pollock fishery wasn't directly affected, that segment of Alaska's fishing fleet is still worried.

In the past decade, former Alaska GOP Sen. Ted Stevens helped steer more than $200 million toward Steller's sea-lion research to help find a root cause for declines, hoping government biologists won't eventually point to fishing.

Dave Benton, executive director of the Marine Conservation Alliance, which represents the biggest fishing companies at work in the Bering Sea, wondered Monday if other fisheries now had a gun to their head.

"What will this mean for other fisheries in the future?" Benton asked.

Mecum said earlier fishing closures seemed to be having a positive effect in other areas, but his agency would have to keep its eye on things for several years.
And environmentalists admit they're not done seeking changes, and have made clear they would use the courts to impose broader restrictions if the administration doesn't take the necessary steps.

"Something out there clearly isn't working," said John Warrenchuk

Endangered North Atlantic right whale population rising as ship strikes drop

Endangered North Atlantic right whale population rising as ship strikes drop

HALIFAX - Measures meant to stem the demise of one of the world's most endangered marine mammals appear to be working as the population of North Atlantic right whales rises slightly and deaths linked to ship strikes level off.

A scientist who studies the large, lumbering animals says preliminary numbers suggest initiatives in the United States and Canada that divert ships around areas where the mammals have been spotted could be slowing their decline.

"I think the ship-strike problem has been reduced," said Amy Knowlton, a research scientist at the New England Aquarium in Boston.

"Certainly they're much better protected from ship strikes than they ever have been, so we're hopeful that the number of mortalities from that sort of thing will reduce."

Knowlton, who will study the whales for the next two months in the Bay of Fundy, said they could be seeing signs that regulations on speed and ship routing are having a beneficial effect.

In the U.S., a federal rule introduced in late 2008 forced ships of a certain size to slow down as they pass through areas along the eastern seaboard that are part of the migratory route of the whales.

The initiative, which was 10 years in the making, requires ships to reduce their speeds to about 19 kilometres an hour at certain times of the year when the whales are heading south to breed or north to feed.

It's estimated about two are killed every year when they are hit by boats that cruise through their transit route, which stretches from breeding grounds off Florida and Georgia and up to the Bay of Fundy, where many feed in the summer months.

The creatures, which can measure up to 18 metres in length, travel slowly and close to the surface, putting the world's remaining 430 right whales at risk of being rammed by large container ships.

In 2003, Canada re-routed some shipping lanes around the animal's migratory path and, in 2008, implemented a voluntary area to be avoided near the Roseway Basin south of Nova Scotia.

Knowlton said there has been one fatality linked to a ship strike since 2008, a reduction that could signal new hope for the species.

"It seems like something could have shifted," she said.

"We're looking at the numbers of right whales and other large whale species to see if there has been a reduction in the number of animals that are ship struck."

But while scientists are cautiously optimistic the ship measures are helping, they say whales are still dying from entanglements in fishing line.

Michael Moore, a research scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts, said one of two whales found dead last month in U.S. waters appears to have died months after becoming entangled in fishing gear.

Moore did a necropsy on the adult male that had rope wrapped around its flippers and head, which can cause a painful death up to five months after the initial entanglement.

"In terms of the animal welfare aspect, it's a pretty brutal way to go," he said.

Several humpback whales were spotted with fishing gear on them weeks ago off Cape Cod.

Knowlton said the calving rates are also raising hopes for the species, which was almost hunted to extinction centuries ago.

Nineteen calves were born this year compared to the average of 11 in the 1980s and '90s. But, she says the species is known to have fluctuating pregnancy rates and the numbers could fall again.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

EU shark ban has 'crucified fishing industry in region', say fishermen

EU shark ban has 'crucified fishing industry in region', say fishermen

While the EU has attempted to manage its fleets' shark fisheries with quotas, recovery plans, minimum landing sizes and a "fins attached" landing policy, a conservation group is now calling for greater shark protection.

Oceana, founded in 2001 as an international marine conservation and advocacy organisation, says that sharks are less managed than other fish species and fear that their low reproductive rate and critical role in marine ecosystems means a drop in numbers could be catastrophic.

A new report by Oceana, The Race for Threatened Sharks, demonstrates how sharks are extremely vulnerable species and claims that European Union vessels have fished sharks of many species at home and around the world "without management for decades".

However, Westcountry fishermen say shark protective moves like the EU total ban on retaining the species of spurdog "has crucified the fishing industry in North Devon".

In North Devon a by-catch of spurdog was a valuable part of many fisheries like netting, long-line fishing and trawling and did add considerably to the fishermen's income.

In other regions like West Cornwall such sharks as porbeagle were an equally un-predicted and unwanted by-catch, mainly of netters.

"And what use is chucking them back dead? We don't want them but we can't not catch them," said one Cornish fisherman.

Globally, 21 per cent of shark populations are threatened with extinction, according to Oceana, and targeted and by-catch fisheries are the main threat to their survival.

Yet, "there's another side to that issue," said a North Devon fisherman.

"We just can't seem to make them understand that sharks like the spurdog will be caught whatever we do. When you have, as we have, invested so much money in a trawler we can't stop fishing."

He told how spurdogs normally congregate in "packs" and if a number enter the trawl net at the start of a four hour tow or during the following three and a half hours "then on hauling they will be dead, only if caught in the last 20 minutes or so of the tow will they survive and we cannot arrange what time they go into the net".

John Butterwith told of how the region's small inshore fishery previously directed at spurdog has ended, and many of those fishermen have changed to potting for shellfish.

Regulations for EU shark fisheries only began to surface in the last few years.

Underwater Oil in Gulf Poses Threats

Underwater Oil in Gulf Poses Threats
Officials recently declared the Gulf oil spill no longer poses a risk to the East Coast. But marine scientists are worried about the oil we can't see.

--Government officials recently said the Gulf oil spill no longer poses a risk to the East Coast.
--Marine scientists say even if oil isn't visible on the water's surface, there may be plumes of it underwater.
--Some argue dispersants may actually inhibit microbes from eating up the oil since it may mix with sediment.

People enjoy a day on Florida's Pensacola Beach. NOAA recently declared the Gulf oil spill no longer posed a risk to Florida's coasts. Click to enlarge this

Marine scientists are disputing claims by government officials that the Gulf oil spill is diminishing and does not pose a risk to Florida and the rest of the East Coast. They believe the oil may have been pushed underwater -- and still poses a serious and lurking threat to fish and other marine life.

"Just because you don't see it on the surface or on the coast, it doesn't mean there isn't a problem," said Felicia Coleman, director of the coastal marine laboratory at Florida State University.

"I want to know what's happening with dispersants and dispersed oil. If there are large plumes of oil underwater we might not be able to see for some time."

On July 27, NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco released a statement that "the coast remains clear" for southern Florida, the Florida Keys and the Eastern Seaboard.

"With the flow stopped and the loop current a considerable distance away, the light sheen remaining on the Gulf's surface will continue to biodegrade and disperse, but will not travel far," Lubchenco said.

State officials have re-opened some coastal fishing grounds, and BP has also started redeploying some of its boom along the Gulf coast, raising fears among some local officials that it is abandoning the clean-up effort.

But other ocean scientists say it's too early to declare victory.

They point to new estimates that the BP well actually spewed out 206 million gallons of oil since April 20, making it larger than the previous biggest spill, the Ixtoc I blowout in 1979 that resulted in 135 million gallons.

In fact, Larry McKinney knows from experience that oil can resurface when you least expect it. That's what happened when he was a young scientist working on the Ixtoc spill.

"There are so many parallels," said McKinney, now director of the Harte Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M, Corpus Christi.

McKinney said that similar dispersants were used to break up the Ixtoc oil, which later washed ashore onto Texas beaches. Now, McKinney says he worries that the BP oil could bind with sediment particles and sink to the sea floor. That will make it tougher for microbes to decompose the oil.

"It's a race," McKinney said. "Can the microbial activity eat up the oil before it mixes with sediments and sinks?" McKinney is concerned that there could be a significant amount of oil coating the continental shelf.

McKinney said he believes that as a result, the oil spill may have increased the size of the so-called "dead zone" of oxygen-starved water off the coast of Louisiana and Texas. Much of the dead zone -- which is toxic to all marine life -- is caused by agricultural runoff from Midwest farms flowing out the Mississippi River.

Researchers at the Louisiana Marine Consortium announced Monday that the annual zone now is the size of the state of Massachusetts and is the largest in 25 years. Consortium researchers were hesitant to blame the BP spill, but McKinney and others say the oil increased microbial activity, and robbed the ocean of oxygen.

"BP used a lot of dispersant and the oil went someplace," McKinney said. "If you have that going on, there's no way that you cannot reduce oxygen levels as the result of that activity."

Paul Anastas, assistant administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, defended BP's use of dispersants. While there may be negative effects underwater, the goal was to protect coastal wetlands.

"Once it makes it to shore," Anastas said Monday, "there's more of an impact on sensitive ecosystems that is extremely difficult to clean up."

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Study: Blue Whales Align The Pitch Of Their Songs With Extreme Accuracy; 'Always Calling At The Exact Same Pitch'

Underwater Times: Study: Blue Whales Align The Pitch Of Their Songs With Extreme Accuracy; 'Always Calling At The Exact Same Pitch'

SAN FRANCISCO, California -- Blue whales are able to synchronize the pitch of their calls with an extremely high level of accuracy, and a very slim margin of error from call to call, according to a new study of the blue whale population in the eastern North Pacific. Results were published in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. The authors suggest that the uniform pitch used by blue whale populations could allow individual whales to locate potential mates by swimming toward them or away from them.

"Blue whales in a given population have been observed to align their pitch to a common value, but we have now been able to determine just how accurately they are able to do so," said Roger Bland, professor of physics at San Francisco State University.

Bland and colleagues analyzed recordings of 4,378 blue whale songs, off the California coast, and focused on the whales' B calls -- the long, sad moan that typically forms the second half of the blue whale song that is specific to the eastern North Pacific population. They found that the whales all produce the B call at the same pitch, at a frequency of 16.02 Hz, exactly four octaves below middle C.

"We found that blue whales are capable of very fine control over the pitch of their call -- both in reproducing their call at the same pitch every time and in synchronizing their pitch with others," Bland said.

The study found a remarkably small variation in pitch from call to call. In musical terms, the half-tone change of pitch between the notes C and C Sharp is a 6 percent increase in pitch, whereas the variation observed between the blue whale's B calls was a 0.5 percent change in pitch.

The authors suggest that there may be an adaptive advantage to the whales tuning into a common pitch. "If whales are so super accurate in always calling at the exact same pitch, then it's possible that they could be able to detect tiny shifts in other whales' calls caused by the Doppler shift," Bland said. The Doppler shift is the apparent increase or decrease in pitch that is heard when the source of sound is moving toward or away from an individual, for example the change in pitch heard when a vehicle with a siren passes by.

Previous research has suggested that the blue whale song is produced only by males, and appears to be sung when the whales are traveling. "Given that blue whales can travel up to 5 meters per second, it's feasible that females could locate calling males by listening for the changes in the male's pitch," Bland said.

Underwater recordings were captured at the Pioneer Seamount Underwater Observatory, 50 miles off the California coast, over a three-month period in 2001.

The study's results are consistent with recent research suggesting that blue whales across the world have decreased their pitch over the last few decades. "We found the frequency of the B call to be 16 Hz in 2001, which fits well with the downward trending curve that has been observed in previous research."

Five Penguins Win U.S. Endangered Species Act Protection; 'A Renewed Chance At Survival'

Underwater Times: Five Penguins Win U.S. Endangered Species Act Protection; 'A Renewed Chance At Survival'

SAN FRANCISCO, California -- Five penguin species will get U.S. Endangered Species Act protections after a 2006 petition by the Center for Biological Diversity and two lawsuits filed jointly with Turtle Island Restoration Network. Today's Interior Department decision will list the Humboldt penguin of Chile and Peru and four New Zealand penguins, the yellow-eyed, white-flippered, Fiordland crested and erect-crested, as threatened.

"Protecting these penguins under the Endangered Species Act gives them a renewed chance at survival," said Center biologist Shaye Wolf. "Unfortunately, in today's finding the Obama administration failed to acknowledge climate change as a threat. This administration won't be able to help penguins survive the climate crisis if it doesn't admit that it's a problem."

The penguins face serious threats from climate change, ocean acidification and commercial fishing. Today's designation will raise awareness about the penguins' plight, increase research and conservation funding, and provide additional oversight of activities approved by the U.S. government that could harm penguins and their habitat, including development projects and high seas fisheries.

Warming oceans, melting sea ice and overfishing have depleted the penguins' food supply of krill and fish. As sea ice melt has melted, krill has declined by up to 80 percent since the 1970s over large areas of the Southern Ocean where penguins forage. Ocean acidification is also inhibiting the growth of organisms at the base of the food web. What's more, these penguins also drown in commercial fishing gear, die in oil spills and are killed by introduced predators at their breeding colonies.

"Finally the government is throwing penguins a lifeline to recovery by protecting them under the Endangered Species Act," said Todd Steiner, executive director of Turtle Island Restoration Network. "Industrial fisheries and ocean warming are starving the penguins. Longlines and other destructive fishing gear entangle and drown them. Now they will have a fighting chance to survive."

The Center filed a petition to list 12 penguin species under the Act in 2006. In December 2008, the Interior Department proposed listing seven penguins, including the five given official protection today. By court order, final decisions for the African and southern rockhopper penguins are due in September 2010 and January 2011. The Center and TIRN plan to file suit against Interior for denying listing to emperor and northern rockhopper penguins despite scientific evidence that they are jeopardized by climate change and commercial fisheries.