Wednesday, September 29, 2010

We'll be back up to speed by Sunday

Apologies to my readers for a lack of updates this last week. I'm driving my mother to Burleson, Texas and she is old, deaf, and mobility impaired. So it's been work. I simply haven't had the time to update here, and when I have had the time, haven't had the energy.

I was planning to get all caught up today...stopped early on purpose just to do so..but the hotel was the hotel room from hell, which I didn't realize until we'd already got unpacked. Despite the problems - no TV, no internet, running toilet, loud refrigerator (neither of which my mom could hear, of course) my mom didn't want to move.

Finally, at 7.17 pm Central time I'm able to access the internet, but I'm too mentally exhausted to do anything except complain about how exhausted I am.

So this blog will return to form - and have new features - on this comng Sunday, when we will have arrived in Burleson and I can work all day long.

Thanks for understanding!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Screams of dying whales haunt Far North rescue

The Northern Advocate: Screams of dying whales haunt Far North rescue
Rescuers struggled in soft sand and against the ferocious sting of windblown sand to reach whales beached in a mass stranding on one of Northland's most remote beaches.

Joyce Munns, manager of nearby Waitiki Landing Holiday Park, said she will never forget the sound of the dying whales' "high-pitched screams".

Yesterday's stranding at Spirits Bay, 90km north of Kaitaia and between Cape Reinga and North Cape, was even bigger than last month's at Karikari Beach. Again, it involved pilot whales.

Atrocious weather conditions combined with crashing surf meant rescuers faced a hard job to save the whales from drowning or being dashed against rocks. Some of the whales had to be euthanised because of their injuries.

The remaining whales were due to be transported by truck to Rarawa Beach this morning in a desperate attempt to save their lives.

Volunteers from Project Jonah, Far North Whale Rescue, and other DoC offices in Northland and Auckland, along with members of the local Te Hapua community put in a long night to help keep the surviving whales alive.

"They will be lifted up with big nets on to the back of trucks with straw or hay loaded on them," Project Jonah chairman Mark Simpson said.

It was not clear how many trucks would be involved in the move but more help from the public would be needed throughout the day.

Advertisement"More whales are still coming in. Pilot whales have very strong social bonds and they try to help each other so more keep getting stuck," Mr Simpson said last night.

Ms Munns said she and other helpers felt useless against the furious weather conditions and the inevitability that the whales they could see "bobbing around" beyond the surfline would also strand. Many did.

About 6pm, Ms Munns went home, unable to stay with other rescuers for the long night time vigil of trying to shift the whales above the surf line and keeping them wet.

The alarm was raised at 11.30am when 32 pilot whales were reported stranded. By 2pm, 74 whales were stranded along a 2km stretch of beach. Of those, 49 were still alive. During the afternoon only nine had been refloated.

Kaitaia area manager Jonathan Maxwell said considerable effort and manpower will be required to save so many whales, with up to five people required per whale. Anyone who can help is urged to report to Spirits Bay-Kapowairua campground, with wetsuit, warm clothing and wet weather gear, he said.

Human safety was the number one priority, so careful planning and co-ordination were crucial, Mr Maxwell said.

The stranding at Karikari Beach, just a month ago on August 20, involved 58 pilot whales ranging from newborn calves to fully-grown adults.

Forty-three were already dead when found on the isolated beach; another six died during the rescue attempt and nine were refloated the following day at Matai Bay.

Tutukaka based marine conservationist Wade Doak said it was unlikely the answer to why the second stranding occurred in the same region will be found.

"There are places that are recurring stranding sites, like Farewell Spit, but the Far North coast is not known for frequent strandings," Mr Doak said.

He has swum with stranded whales and dolphins when their echo-sounding capabilities have not worked on a flat, shallow seabed. He said says people also become disoriented on flat, shallow seabeds when they can not use their vision to locate landmarks.

"Whales are social mammals and won't abandon the rest of the pod.

"While that works in their favour much of the time, this kind of situation proves it can be detrimental to the pod's well-being, too," he said.

Scores of whales feared dead in New Zealand mass beaching

Telegraph.Co.UK, from Sept 23: Scores of whales feared dead in New Zealand mass beaching

A pod of about 80 whales was found stranded at Spirits Bay, 200 miles northwest of Auckland, the second mass beaching in the area in two months.

While 25 of the whales were already dead, the Department of Conservation called in 100 volunteers to help the remaining mammals survive.

"It's pretty cold and arduous for the people on the beach trying to save the whales," she told Radio NZ.

Ms Smith said heavy swells and high seas were making it impossible to refloat the whales at Spirits Bay and the department was considering using trucks to move them to a more sheltered beach about an hour's drive away.

Last month, 63 pilot whales stranded themselves near Kaitaia, about 50 miles away. Only nine survived.

Scientists are unsure why pilot whales beach themselves, although they speculate it may occur when their sonar becomes scrambled in shallow water or when a sick member of the pod heads for shore and others follow

Friday, September 24, 2010

New Study Affirms Gulf Oil Spill's Vastness: 4.4 Million Barrels; 'We Think It's A Really Good Ballpark'

Underwater Times: New Study Affirms Gulf Oil Spill's Vastness: 4.4 Million Barrels; 'We Think It's A Really Good Ballpark'

NEW YORK, New York -- BP's leaking oil well in the Gulf of Mexico was conclusively sealed this week, but even now, questions remain about the amount of oil that actually came out of it. Initially after the April 20 explosion, officials claimed that the flow could not be measured. Then, as public pressure for information mounted, they looked for ways to measure it, and started producing estimates: at first, 1,000 barrels a day; then 5,000; then 12,000 to 19,000; then upward from there.

Now, in the first independent, peer-reviewed paper on the leak's volume, scientists have affirmed heightened estimates of what is now acknowledged as the largest marine oil accident ever. Using a new technique to analyze underwater video of the well riser, they say it leaked some 56,000 to 68,000 barrels daily--maybe more--until the first effective cap was installed, on July 15. Their estimate of the total oil escaped into the open ocean is some 4.4 million barrels--close to the most recent consensus of government advisors, whose methods have not been detailed publicly. The paper appears in this week's early online edition of the leading journal Science.

"We wanted to do an independent estimate because people had the sense that the numbers out there were not necessarily accurate," said lead author Timothy Crone, a marine geophysicist at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. After BP and government officials downplayed the possibility or importance of measurements, a wide spectrum of scientists, environmental groups and legal experts pointed out that the information was needed to determine both short- and long-term responses, and monetary liability.

The new study divides the flow rate into two periods: April 22 to June 3, when oil spurted from a jagged break in the riser; and after June 3, when the riser was cut, and oil temporarily spewed into the ocean unimpeded. Crone and his coauthor, Lamont marine geophysicist Maya Tolstoy, used a visual analysis technique Crone recently developed called optical plume velocimetry. They say video from the earlier period indicated a flow of about 56,000 barrels a day (a barrel is 42 gallons). After the pipe was cut, they say, the rate went to about 68,000. After accounting for time elapsed, the authors subtracted 804,877 barrels collected by BP at the site, to come up with a total of 4.4 million barrels that escaped. Given the study's stated 20 percent margin of error plus or minus, this roughly agrees with the federal government's Flow Rate Technical Group's most recent comparable estimate of 4.1 million barrels (after subtracting the oil collected by BP).

Attempts to get a handle on the size of the release have been fraught with high-profile problems. A week after the initial 1,000-barrel-a-day assertion, it became apparent that BP was collecting more than that, and far more beside was escaping. On April 28, NOAA hastily produced an estimate of 5,000 barrels, extrapolating this from the size of the surface plume. But scientists and journalists soon attacked this figure (for instance in a May 13 New York Times report). Crone became involved when National Public Radio asked him and other experts to come up with their own estimates; a May 14 NPR story based on their observations suggested that the rate was actually five or ten times higher. On May 21, the Times published an op-ed piece by Crone and colleagues from three other institutions outlining the case that existing scientific techniques could be used to form a realistic picture. On May 27, the government raised the estimate again, to 12,000-19,000 barrels per day. A variety of techniques went into this and the later, even higher, official estimates, but the government and its advisors have released only limited information on their techniques—again, raising criticism from the scientific community . This new study is the first to lay out the details of an analysis publicly in a report independently reviewed by other researchers.

Crone started developing optical plume velocimetry in 2006, in order to study natural hydrothermal vents—volcanically driven cracks and holes in the seafloor that shoot out buoyant, superheated jets of mineral-laden water. A jet from a leaking oil pipe is similar. The technique uses high-resolution video from underwater cameras to track the motion of turbulent billows and flows in the water, breaking down the movement pixel by pixel. Under a grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation, Crone tested it first in the lab, then at deep-sea vents in the eastern Pacific, and the Juan de Fuca ridge, off the U.S. Pacific northwest. He is currently developing a network of automatic cameras that will track vent activity on the Juan de Fuca. "This is a great example of how basic research that doesn't seem to have any immediate value suddenly gains huge immediacy for society," said Crone.

The scientists say their study is just a start. Other researchers have been trying to get at the same question using separate visual and acoustic techniques. Crone and Tolstoy say their conclusions rest on just a few short clips of high-resolution video—almost all that has been released by BP and the government so far, and made available by members of Congress to the scientists. (A live publicly accessible webcam showing the leak as it continued week after week had extremely low resolution, insufficient for analysis.) The researchers point out that the flows could have varied day to day. And, the analysis did not include video of several other leaks from smaller holes further up the pipe, which are thought to have grown with time; thus, the true figures may be larger, if anything, said Crone. "We clearly acknowledge the limits of our technique; we're unlikely to ever know the exact figure," he said. Tolstoy added: "This is not the last word. It is the first peer-reviewed word. But we think it's a really good ballpark."

The researchers said they hope they and others will be able to refine their estimates if the government and BP release more video and other information to independent researchers. Ian MacDonald, a Florida State University oceanographer who has also studied the leak, but was not involved in the study, said: "This is a welcome paper in that it opens the door onto how the oil spill flow-rate estimates have been calculated. It provides a transparency of method and a foundation for peer review for what has until now been a confusing and uncertain process."

Colossal coral bleaching kills up to 95 percent of corals in the Philippines Colossal coral bleaching kills up to 95 percent of corals in the Philippines

It is one of the most worrisome observations: fast massive death of coral reefs. A severe wide-scale bleaching occurred in the Philippines leaving 95 percent of the corals dead. The bleaching happened as the result of the 2009-2010 El Niño, with the Indian Ocean and Southeast Asia waters experiencing significant thermal increase especially since the beginning of 2010.

In one of our conservation sites prior to the bleaching event, dead coral represented only 20 percent of all corals, after bleaching that percentage rose to 95 percent of corals. The dominant live coral morphologies on the reef flat included branching, encrusting and foliose forms (Acropora and Montipora species) followed by sub-massive and massive Porites species. The crest had a slightly lower percentage of encrusting and massive forms, and an increased percentage of tabulate and corymbose forms. In contrast, slope regions were dominated by foliose (Montipora species). Now, the majority of the coral are dead and are mostly covered by algae while some are already showing signs of rubble.

Millepora coral in the Philippines prior to bleaching event. Photo courtesy of Pierre Fidenci.
The bleaching has been observed at many other sites around the Philippines featuring mass mortality of corals including the coral triangle outside the Philippines. This environmental catastrophe will probably be considered the most damaging bleaching event ever recorded in the Philippines, surpassing the big one of 1998.

During bleaching events, corals loss the symbiotic algae (known as zooxanthellae) which causes the coral to look white as the limestone skeleton becomes visible. Corals that are not able to recover from bleaching will die and eventually break down. While corals can recover from bleaching, extreme or long exposure to temperature anomalies cause significant mortality. Recoveries are strongly influenced by human disturbances such as overfishing and water pollution.

The consequence of this large-scale event is far from being fully known but fish diversity and populations will be highly affected. Livelihood depending on small sustainable fishing activities will see their income significantly reduced. Tourism will suffer greatly and tourists activities to replace diving will be needed.

Prior to this year’s bleaching, it was estimated that about 85 percent of the reefs have been damaged or destroyed in the Philippines, now the current estimate is likely to be close to 95 percent.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Jaws exposed: Extraordinary pictures of great whites stripping a whale carcass shows they're actually quite picky eaters

Daily Mail Online: Jaws exposed: Extraordinary pictures of great whites stripping a whale carcass shows they're actually quite picky eaters

Ever since Jaws, great whites have had a reputation as killing machines that has never seemed much point questioning.
However, that could all be about to change - after a study into the fearsome predators' dining habits.
Scientists towed a 36ft Brydes whale carcass into a well-known hunting ground for the animals in an exercise aimed at documenting how they tackled the huge free lunch.
And these amazing pictures show how up to 30 of them stripped a single whale carcass - and gave an 'extraordinary' insight into how the much-feared predators behave.
But while many would have expected a feeding frenzy and potentially lethal fights between the razor-teethed gians, the behaviour observed was quite different.
The sharks appeared to select choice cuts of the dead whale and did not appear to be aggressive towards each other.
Free lunch: The 30 great white sharks were provided with a whale carcass so scientists could study their eating habits

Tasty findings: Alison Kock was the principal scientist at Save Our Seas Shark Centre and Shark Spotting Programme, at Cape Town in South Africa and was surprised by the sharks

Alison Kock, 33, the principal scientist at Save Our Seas Shark Centre and Shark Spotting Programme, at Cape Town South Africa, said: 'Contrary to their reputation as mindless killers, the level of selectivity for which parts of the dead whale they ate was extraordinary.

'They targeted the energy-rich blubber, often making repeated "test bites" where no flesh was removed, and removing flesh only once they had determined it was what they wanted. If they got a mouthful of muscle, they often spat it out.

'They were very picky.'

It's thought the huge whale was killed after being struck by a boat and was found floating towards Miller's Point near Cape Town, South Africa, where the clean up operation for the local authorities would have been difficult as their huge bodies are harder to remove on land.

It was also feared the body - giving off oils that attract predators like sharks - may have drawn in great whites to an area frequented by swimmers.

Kock added: 'Permission was granted by the authorities to have the dead whale towed to nearby Seal Island where the carcass was less of an issue and the sharks could help solve the clean-up problem.

'In addition it provided an unparalleled opportunity to document white shark behaviour and record the number of sharks in the area.

'Whale carcasses are believed to be a very important source of food for white sharks with some scientific evidence suggesting they follow whale migrations possibly to, opportunistically feed on dead or sick whales.'

Jaws: Alison Koch said: 'Contrary to their reputation as mindless killers, the level of selectivity for which parts of the dead whale they ate was extraordinary'

Blubber: During the nine-day experiment Kock and her team made some shocking discoveries, including the fact that the sharks seemed to have a huge preference for soft blubber over tough muscle

During the nine-day experiment, which ended on Saturday, Kock and her team made some shocking discoveries, including the fact that the sharks seemed to have a huge preference for soft blubber over tough muscle.

'In the case of the whale carcass the sharks knew exactly what they wanted,' said Kock.

'It provides evidence that when they bite into a surfboard, or kayak or person wearing a wetsuit they can immediately determine it's not something they want to eat.
'It's very common in attacks on humans for white sharks to take a single bite and leave it at that. Our study provides more evidence that they are simply tasting and looking for meat that is nutritious. It shows that they are not just swimming around mindlessly eating everything they come across, as they are sometimes portrayed.'

She added: 'I was surprised at the total number of white sharks that fed on the dead whale over the nine days we documented the event. We recorded over 30 different sharks in total. At one stage we had up to four white sharks feeding simultaneously on the carcass.

'The first two days were the busiest with the most sharks, and the activity slowly decreased as the sharks had their fill. The last two days we recorded no sharks feeding on the carcass.

'Many of the sharks I recognised as individuals hunting seals around the island from this shark season, as well as previous years. We used their unique dorsal fins to identify them, but there were also new sharks that I had never seen before.
'The sharks showed very little aggression towards one another in the presence of such a large food source, often feeding side by side.

'Some of the sharks we observed were gorging on the blubber and you could actually see their bellies getting fuller.

"Some would arrive quite skinny and by the end of their session they looked pregnant with their bellies bulging.'

During the study, the sharks reduced the carcass down to less than seven feet (two metres) of bone and muscle, having removed all the blubber.

Shark enthusiast Kock, added: 'This is the ultimate example of the very important role sharks play in the ecosystem. That of recycling life, and of keeping our oceans healthy by removing dead and decaying animals like dead whales.'

Ooooooooh, Barracuda

Vancouver Sun: Secrets of barracudas revealed in thesis

Ottawa's Amanda O'Toole swam with barracudas to help determine where and how they live, Tom Spears reports.

Everyone in the Caribbean knows the barracuda, a big, tough predator that watches curiously from a short distance away when humans snorkel or dive around coral reefs.

Yet the big fish is a mystery. Does it swim long distances or stay at home? Where does it spawn? If you catch and release one, does it survive?

Carleton University student Amanda O'Toole of Ottawa found almost no one had studied the barracuda except for one guy from Miami in the 1960s. That's unusual for a top predator in any ecosystem. People study lions, tigers, grizzlies. Why not barracudas?

So off she went to study the fish for her master's thesis in biology.

It fit nicely with O'Toole's interests:

Enjoys working outdoors. Check.

Likes conservation. Check.

Likes to travel to the Bahamas in winter. Definitely.

"They're a very common fish," she says. That's one reason to study them; often scientists only get around to studying animals once they're endangered, leaving questions about what a healthy population looks like.

To conserve a species, you have to know where and how it lives, says O'Toole's adviser, Carleton professor Steven Cooke.

"When we started working on them, we were blown away" by the knowledge gap, he says.

O'Toole swam with her barracuda, feeling no fear. Attacks on humans are rare and usually seem to occur when the diver is carrying something that looks like a fish, she believes.

"They're fun to photograph. They're just really cool fish."

The barracuda is important both to the ecosystem and for sport fishing. Often they're caught by accident by someone looking for mahi mahi or other sport fish, but some people also try to catch barracuda.

That led to one question: Does a barracuda that's released recover? Mostly yes, she found. "They're quite robust" but they still have to be treated gently to avoid injury.

"These areas are quite predator-heavy, so there are lots of sharks or other barracuda around, ready to chomp a vulnerable fish as you release it."

She also studied a common toxin that some fish absorb called ciguatera, which can poison humans. The question was whether fish in one area carry more toxin than fish from a few kilometres away.

Yes, the local residents say.

No, her results showed, because the barracuda loves to travel.

"We put tags inside of barracuda. We have all these little listening stations set up on the ocean floor" near the island of Eleuthera, and these devices recorded where the fish moved.

Some stayed in one spot, but others moved around freely. "Our little telemetry array spans about 14 kilometres square, and sometimes these fish will zip straight across it in a day."

One even swam from her area to another fish-monitoring base 100 kilometres away, and back.

Some mysteries remain, though. The fish disappear for months in the summer, presumably leaving the continental shelf for the deep regions lying nearby. They may be spawning.

O'Toole has just finished her master's and moved to Vancouver, where she'll work for a consulting firm that studies the effects of development on fish.

She's happy to be working with fish, "but I'll miss my barracuda."

China’s shark fishing: unmonitored, unregulated, unmanaged, and unsustainable

From China’s shark fishing: unmonitored, unregulated, unmanaged, and unsustainable

Being a shark isn’t always easy. OK, you’re a top predator, but you’re also seeing your family and friends disappear every year, as fishermen haul them out of the water and cart them off to market.

One of the biggest of those markets is South East Asia, where shark fin soup is a particular delicacy, but there is a huge dearth of information on fishing in the region. Now Vivian Lam and Yvonne Sadovy, of the University of Hong Kong, have used historical information and interviews with modern fishermen to produce the first historical account of the region’s shark catch.

It’s a grim picture: although there are 109 species of shark historically present in the South China Sea, surveys of today’s markets found just 18 species. Of those animals that were found, 65% were below the size of sexual maturity.

“Serious declines have occurred in shark biodiversity and numbers in the northern sector of the South China Sea over five decades,” the authors write in Fish and Fisheries. “From 109 species recorded in southern China in the past, to only 18 species recorded in the current market surveys, the degree of decline should be considered catastrophic.”

All those interviewed in the study highlighted a drastic decline in shark abundance and diversity. They also said they had to travel further and fish harder to obtain the same amount of shark flesh. Their reports indicate that basking sharks and larger requiem sharks may even have been made locally extinct.

Critically, shark fishing within Chinese waters is “unmonitored, unregulated and unmanaged” note Lam and Sadovy.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Scripps And Department Of Defense Search For New Antibiotics

Scripps And Department Of Defense Search For New Antibiotics

The Department of Defense has awarded nearly $30 million to Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the local drug company Trius to find new antibiotic sources from the ocean.

There are about 120 antibiotic drugs available in America today. That’s no where near enough, said William Fenical, director of Scripps Center for Marine Biotechnology and Biomedicine.

“Almost every one of those are no longer effective and as a result we need to develop new sources, new potent antibiotics for the treatment of news diseases, the so called 'superbugs.'”

Scripps and Trius Team Up to Develop New Antibiotics

Photo Gallery
Drug resistant superbugs can affect everyone, and Fenical said if you include bio-weapons and new infections found in war zones we’ve got a microbe explosion waiting to happen.

"In the military and Afghanistan is the onset of infectious diseases from organisms that before were never visible. Now, we're seeing them and we don’t have a good arsenal of antibiotics to treat these organisms.”

The response to these new diseases from the Department of Defense is to focus on finding marine sources of microbes to make new antibiotics.

Fenical said a million microbes can be found in just 1/28 of an ounce of seawater.

“The sources of microbes are the water itself, the bottom of the ocean, or the so called sediment or soil equivalent of the ocean, and also plants and animals that have specialized microbes living with them,” said Fenical.

Trius is the San Diego drug company that has partnered with Scripps for the nearly five-year project. Once a microbe is identified for the development of an antibody, Trius will develop and test it, and eventually they hope to market it to the military and the public.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

No 'Silent World': Study Shows 'Noise' Is Symptom Of Coral Reef Health

Underwater Times: No 'Silent World': Study Shows 'Noise' Is Symptom Of Coral Reef Health
BRISTOL, U.K. -- Healthy reefs with more corals and fish generate predictably greater levels of noise, according to researchers working in Panama. This has important implications for understanding the behavior of young fish, and provides an exciting new approach for monitoring environmental health by listening to reefs.

Contrary to Jacques Cousteau's 'Silent World', coral reefs are surprisingly noisy places, with fish and invertebrates producing clicks and grunts which combine to produce cacophonies of noise. Each reef is subtly different depending on the size and composition of the resident community.

By analyzing recordings of coral reefs from the Las Perlas Archipelago in Pacific Panama (Central America), marine biologists have found that some reefs are noisier than others, and these differences in noise provide useful information about the state of the reef. Exeter University PhD student Emma Kennedy and her supervisor Dr Steve Simpson, working with an acoustician Dr Marc Holderied, also from the University of Bristol's School of Biological Sciences, found that healthier reefs were louder, with a clear association between overall noise level generated and the amount of living coral.

A more detailed investigation of the sound produced by some of the reefs showed that lower frequency sounds provided more information on the numbers of fish living on the reef, while the intensity of higher frequency reef sounds gave an indication of coral diversity. This is the first time that a link has been made between noise generated by individual reefs and the specific habitats and communities making up that reef.

Previous work by Dr Steve Simpson has shown that larval fish and corals returning to reefs after spending their first few weeks out in the plankton, search for habitat by listening out for, and moving towards, reef noise. Sound travels well underwater, meaning that noise produced by a reef can propagate several kilometers out to sea.

Dr Simpson said: "This study provides evidence that reef generated sound contains a real richness of information. This would provide fish and invertebrates with the cues they need to assess the quality of potential settlement sites before they can see them, a bit like wandering around a music festival eavesdropping on different bands before choosing where to pitch your tent. It may even provide the information that enables some fish to return to the very reef on which they were originally spawned."

The study also highlights the potential for using audio recordings to monitor the health of reefs. Usually, scientific assessment of reef health requires teams of scuba divers and huge quantities of equipment and so is costly, time consuming and difficult in remote areas. In this study, scientists dropped a cable off the side of the boat with a hydrophone (underwater recording device) attached. A two-minute recording contained enough information to distinguish between reefs. This is a very encouraging find for the development of acoustic recordings as ecological survey or monitoring tools.

The team are hoping that their findings will prompt other scientists to investigate reef sound further.

Emma Kennedy said: "Investigation of the acoustic properties of reefs is a relatively new area of science but already we're realizing that there's more to underwater noises than just whale and dolphin communication! Reefs may be broadcasting a lot of information out into the sea that both humans and marine animals could use. We're hoping that our findings will encourage more research into this area, and are excited this might lead to the development of new tools for assessing reef health."

The research was a collaborative effort carried out from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Centre with Dr Hector Guzman (STRI) and Professor Hamish Mair at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh.

The research is published in the Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, and was funded by Natural Environment Research Council (NERC, UK) grants to Steve Simpson and Emma Kennedy.

Kuwait loses 90 % of corals reefs in the Arab Gulf

Global Arab Network: Kuwait loses 90 % of corals reefs in the Arab Gulf

Head of the Kuwait Diving Team Walid Al-Fadhel said in a statement to KUNA, "this requires quick action by the competent authorities to find out the real causes, as well as solutions." He also called on frequent goers to these marine natural sites to refrain from any action that may inflict damage in the reefs or kill the creatures co-existing with them.

The comprehensive survey, conducted by the team, included the major locations of coral reefs 50 miles along the shores and 70 km from the southern coast borders, with depths ranging from 1-13 meters.

The combing covered Um Al-Maradim, Kheiran, Ras Al-Zor, Garouh, Um Diera, Teyler, Kubbar and Oraifjan with the result of 90 percent of "bleaching" of the coral reef.

At the begining of noticing this phenomenon, he added, dead fish were found floating on the water surface, or laying between the corals, yet not anymore.

Al-Fadhel said that the team does not know the causes for this disaster, but it is either a natural or human, which requires the competent authorities, whether global or local, to examine and prepare accurate studies. He noted that the diving team proceeded to contact several local and international companies (interested in this matter) and send the necessary reports with some samples of sites affected for study.

Furthermore, he pointed out that the team had highlighted through awareness campaigns the necessity of protecting the coral reefs and raising tons of waste and nets off them.

Al-Fadhel revealed an initiative to offset the environmental destruction of coral reefs by expanding the reserves of Kuwait Jaber marine sites, rehabilitation of coral reefs and coral farming, in coordination with French experts.

He then expressed readiness of his team to coordinate and cooperate with scientific sectors to follow up on this phenomenon and seek to rehabilitate these locations.

Surprise: FDA Panel Unable to Reach Conclusion on Genetically Modified Salmon

ABC News: Surprise: FDA Panel Unable to Reach Conclusion on Genetically Modified Salmon

After two days of hearings, several members of an 11-member advisory panel of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found that there are not yet sufficient data to determine that a genetic modification that enables salmon to grow twice as quickly is safe for the affected fish or for consumers.

The panel, made up of outside experts, did not vote or make a recommendation on whether to approve these fish for human consumption, after holding today's public hearing to determine whether genetic engineering is safe for the fish; whether the fish are safe to eat; whether the fish actually do grow faster; and the potential environmental impacts the production of these fish could pose.

AquaBounty Technologies, the company that hoped to get the modification approved, faced considerable criticism from a number of consumer and scientific advocacy organizations at the hearings.

The genetically altered salmon eggs include a growth hormone gene that cause them to reach full size in about half the time it takes regular salmon to reach the same size.

FDA Documents released before the hearings also indicated the fish are safe, and one FDA scientist testified to that earlier today.

"In conclusion, all of the data and information we reviewed ... really drive us to the conclusion that AquAdvantage salmon is Atlantic salmon, and food from AquAdvantage salmon is as safe as food from other Atlantic salmon," said Kathleen Jones of the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine.

But several of the technology's opponents attended the hearing to urge the FDA not to approve the eggs, accusing the FDA of relying on shoddy science when they did their initial review and determined the fish to be safe.

"The FDA is relying on company data from only a handful of fish," said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food and Water Watch. "Such flimsy science isn't good enough to assure the public that this product is safe to eat.

Donald Prater of the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine, visited AquaBounty Technologies and helped gather data for the agency's intiial review. He testified earlier today that the safety study included some fish that were selected based on certain characteristics, but said they were comparable to normal salmon in terms of health problems. He also said the fish would require additional monitoring to determine whether the growing conditions could cause additional health abnormalities.

Other critics said these fish pose a threat to salmon in the wild. The Ocean Conservancy, a Washington, DC-based conservation organization which opposes the salmon production, said these fish could pose a huge risk to native salmon species if they were to escape from captivity.

"This dangerous precedent could eventually allow genetically modified fish in the very same pens and cages where hundreds of thousands of fish escape every year," Anna Zivian, a senior manager with the Ocean Conservancy has said. Zivian testified before the FDA today.

Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), also weighed in on the issue, urging the FDA, in what he said was the interest of the safety of the public and the environment, to avoid "ram[ming] the decision through."

Safety Director Claims SeaWorld Ordered Her to Obstruct Whale Death Investigation
Safety Director Claims SeaWorld Ordered Her to Obstruct Whale Death Investigation

Linda Simons, SeaWorld’s former safety director, claims she was fired for not following the orders of park officials to impede the federal government’s investigation of a trainer who was killed by an orca earlier this year.

In her lawsuit filed against SeaWorld, Simons alleges her former employer wanted her to “obstruct the investigation” as well as manipulate documents, withhold possible evidence and make witnesses unavailable.

On February 24, animal trainer Dawn Brancheau was killed when one of the park’s killer whales, Tilikum, pulled her underwater and drowned her.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced last month it would fine SeaWorld of Florida $75,000 for three safety violations, including one related to Brancheau’s death “for exposing its employees to struck-by and drowning hazards when interacting with killer whales…with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health.” Tilikum had been involved in the death of another animal trainer at Sealand of the Pacific in Vancouver in 1991.
-Noel Brinkerhoff

Article titles, I don't provide the links for them.
"Safety Director Claims SeaWorld Defamed Her For Refusing to Obstruct Probe of Orca Attack" (by Chris Fry, Courthouse News Service)
"Linda Simons v. Seaworld" (Circuit Court, 18th District, Florida) (pdf)
"Sea World WhistleBlower: Trainer Death Caused by Park's Negligence" (by Yunji Nies and Sarah Netter, ABC-Good Morning America)
"US Labor Department's OSHA Cites SeaWorld of Florida Following Animal Trainer's Death" (U.S. Department of Labor)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Watch Your Seas: Marine Scientists Call For European Marine Observatory Network

From Watch Your Seas: Marine Scientists Call For European Marine Observatory Network

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- More than 100 marine scientists, policy makers and members of industry unanimously call for action towards an integrated network of observatories monitoring Europe's seas, at the Marine Board-ESF Forum 'Towards a European Network of Marine Observatories'. This will give reliable, long-term data to underpin science and policy regarding the use of seas for fisheries, aquaculture, energy, shipping, as well as tourism and recreation.

"We should not take for granted the wealth and well-being provided by the seas and oceans" said Lars Horn from the Research Council of Norway and chair of the Marine Board. "This call needs to be heard by national and European decision makers and budget holders. Stable, long-term marine observations are essential so that we can interact with our marine environment in a sustainable way."

Participants in the Forum will adopt a joint vision for a European network of long-term marine observatories. A wide-range of issues related to marine observatories will be discussed: the role of observatories in providing marine knowledge, the technical challenges, the funding schemes and innovative governing structures needed.

Long-term sets of data from the marine environment would enable us to better understand ocean, earth and climate system processes. They are also critical for monitoring the scale and extent of environmental change which affects global society and economy. According to the European Commission, a 25% reduction in uncertainty about future sea-level rise alone could save €100 million annually in European coastal defences.

Professor Peter Haugan from the University of Bergen, Norway is moderating the discussions and will carry the message to the EurOCEAN 2010 Conference, a high level science policy event organized by the Belgian EU Presidency on 12-13 October 2010 in Ostend, Belgium. At this conference the European marine and maritime research community is expected to call on the Member and Associated States of the European Union and the EU institutions, to recognize that "The seas and oceans are one of the Grand Challenges for the 21st Century". A European network of long-term marine observatories for monitoring and research would provide an effective tool to address this challenge.

Scientists to map carbon effect on Barrier Reef

From Sep 6, 2010

From ABC News (Australia) Scientists to map carbon effect on Barrier Reef

Scientists are hoping a new study will help predict how rising levels of carbon dioxide will affect the Great Barrier Reef off Queensland.

University of Queensland researchers want to get a better understanding of how various species of coral, algae and fish will be affected by changes in temperature and acidification.

From Heron Island, off Gladstone in central Queensland, the researchers are using specially designed equipment to measure how the reef will look in the future.

Associate Professor Sophie Dove says tanks in the ocean will measure the effects of acidification and tanks on the land will be filled with organisms to monitor how they respond to the combined effect of temperature and acidification changes.

"We want to actually go and get a sort of Noah's ark of the Reef and put them in," she said.

"People in the past have done temperature, sometimes they've done temperature with acidification but they've never truly matched the temperature they've increased to the acidification scenario that is predicted.

"I feel pretty confident that we're going to be able to make some very good conclusions about what's going to happen to the reef in the future."

The first stage of the study is expected to be completed in 12 months.

New home for giant fish proves to be a big task

Times of Malta: New home for giant fish proves to be a big task

giant fish has been saved from an uncertain future.

At more than 30 kilogrammes, one-metre-long Percy – a cousin of the meat-eating piranha – was facing homelessness as his aquarium of 23 years was closing.

But due to his size, finding a new tank for the 30-year-old pacu was not an easy task.

However, Bristol’s Blue Reef Aquarium stepped in following an international appeal by his owners. Blue Reef’s Becs Smith said: “We were originally contacted by the curator of an animal collection in Cheshire that was closing down.

“Percy had been at the aquarium there since it opened 23 years ago and was fully grown when he first arrived, so he’s a real veteran.

“The curator had been in touch with aquariums throughout Europe in the hope of securing a new home for him but he’s so big that most sites simply did not have the space to accommodate him. Fortunately we have a large Amazon-themed display here at Bristol that’s perfect.”

Percy is from the same family as the piranha but, unlike his fierce relative, he is vegetarian.

Originally from South America, the pacu’s diet is mainly made up of fallen fruit and nuts.

Ms Smith added: “He has settled in really well and although he is five times bigger than our own pacu he’s also extremely placid.

Scientists watching V.I. coral bleaching

Virgin Island Daily News: Scientists watching V.I. coral bleaching

ST. THOMAS — Local scientists are watching the territory’s colorful corals turn white this summer and hoping it is not a repeat performance of the devastating mass-bleaching event of 2005.

“If this were a person, it would be in critical condition,” Jeff Miller, fisheries biologist for the V.I. National Park, said about the territory’s reefs.

In the summer of 2005, an increase in water temperatures led to a massive coral die-off both in the Virgin Islands and around the world. The territory lost 60 percent of its coral colonies to bleaching and disease.

When colorful, living, coral polyps become stressed by high water temperatures, they expel the symbiotic algae that live within it and provide needed food to the coral. Because the algae is the source of the coral’s color, when it leaves, the coral becomes stark white or “bleached.”

While coral can survive the bleaching, it becomes vulnerable to disease and predators.

NOAA’s bleaching outlook
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coral Reef Watch released their 2010 Coral Bleaching Thermal Stress Outlook this week, and it predicts a high likelihood for coral bleaching this summer — something local scientists can confirm is already happening.

NOAA uses satellites to take readings of sea surface temperatures from points across the globe, including the Virgin Islands, and computer models are run to project the effects of those temperature readings.

NOAA’s V.I. temperature sensor is located at Salt River on St. Croix.

“The region at greatest risk fills the region east from Nicaragua past the island of Hispaniola to Puerto Rico and the Lesser Antilles, and south along the Caribbean coasts of Panama and South America. The intensity of the potential thermal stress is predicted to increase through October,” the report states.

According to NOAA, the Caribbean typically experiences higher water temperatures during the second year of an El Niño event. The 2009-2010 El Niño ended in May.

Mark Eakin, NOAA Coral Reef Watch coordinator, said temperatures in the Caribbean have been above normal since January. The models are showing similar trends to those recorded in 2005, he said.

“Things are looking very bad for the Caribbean in 2010,” he said in a written statement. “I am not saying that this year will be worse than 2005, but it looks like it could be a bad year.”

Water temperatures
Miller said that from October 2009 until the end of August, the water temperatures have been at or above normal.

“The water temperatures have been warm for almost a year,” he said. “The corals have been stressed; they haven’t had their usual environment, as far as water temperatures go.”

Tyler Smith, assistant professor at the University of the Virgin Islands Center for Marine and Environmental Studies, said UVI takes readings from 40 locations at reef level, unlike NOAA’s satellite sensor, which takes a surface temperature from only one location.

Corals have a range of temperatures in which they can survive. Every year at this time, corals reach the upper limit of their thermal tolerance. However, global warming is causing the water temperatures to stay in the high end of the corals’ threshold all year round.

Smith said water temperatures in the territory seem to be hovering around 86 degrees. NOAA defines the bleaching threshold for the Virgin Islands at 85.1 degrees.

Without a strong event to force the cooling of the water, sea surface temperatures will remain as warm or warmer for another four to six weeks, Smith said.

“If they stay at the stressful levels, we’re going to see mass bleaching; if we get some cooler temperatures, they could recover,” Smith said.

Starting to bleach
Scientists across the territory already are seeing signs of bleaching.

“A third to a half are experiencing some level of paling, very few corals are 100 percent bleached, which means stark white,” Smith said.

While he is seeing more bleaching every day, there does not yet seem to be a mass die-off like there was in 2005.

“I’ve seen a few dying corals and some coral mortality, but very few, like maybe 1 percent,” Smith said.

Marcia Taylor, marine advisor with the UVI Center for Marine and Environmental Studies, said she has seen bleaching on St. Croix.

“There are corals that are starting to bleach,” Taylor said. “I get in the water and swim pretty much every day, and I’m seeing it.”

Miller said he has not seen outright bleached coral on St. John, but he has seen paling of many corals, which is the beginning of a bleaching event.

Hurricane help
While Virgin Islanders may pray for hurricanes to skip the territory, a storm may be the only thing to prevent a mass-bleaching event.

Before Hurricane Earl passed through Aug. 30, some water temperatures had reached 87 degrees, Smith said.

Typically, hurricanes churn up the water column, mixing the cooler water below with the hotter water on the surface.

Immediately after Earl passed, water temperatures at reef level dropped three to four degrees, Miller said. While temperatures bounced back a few days later, the storm may have prevented the water from heating up far beyond the coral’s threshold.

“I’m not saying the hurricane was a good thing, but it did help to lower the water temperature a little bit, and that was good for the reefs,” Miller said.

Further study
While two mass-bleaching events within the same decade likely would be devastating to the territory’s reefs, the truth is that scientists do not really know how the reef will react or recover. They do not know how the corals that survived the 2005 bleaching event might fare in another one or how those that were bleached but recovered might survive during a second event.

“The corals may actually do better, but scientists are still not sure about the level of acclamation or adaptation that we can expect,” Smith said.

Kemit-Amon Lewis, coral conservation manager at The Nature Conservancy, is working on a project to study coral’s adaptive capabilities. He is spearheading the V.I. Reef Resiliency Plan, which was crafted in conjunction with NOAA.

He said the goal is to see whether there are some areas in the territory that may be less susceptible to bleaching. Those areas may be more important ecologically, he said.

“It may be physical factors, may be biological factors, we really won’t know until we start looking,” Lewis said.

Lewis said the other objective is to develop a plan to respond to coral damage from vessel groundings, anchors, storms and chemical and oil spills.

“We are trying to approach coral reef conservation in a more holistic way,” he said.

To help in the effort, Lewis is seeking public input. He said divers and snorkelers can take photos of bleaching or dying coral and send it to him or call to report a sighting. Lewis can be contacted at 718-5575 or e-mailed at

Oh, buoy: Monster 18m wave off Tasmania

Lithgow Mercury: Oh, buoy: Monster 18m wave off Tasmania

Victorian beaches can expect "fairly large swells" over the weekend, but nothing will match the monsters that reared off Tasmania's coast yesterday.

The Apple Isle is now the home of Australia's biggest recorded wave - 18.4 metres high - after wild weather lashed the state yesterday.

The freakishly big wave was recorded yesterday morning by a wave-rider buoy device off Cape Sorell on Tasmania's west coast.

It was the largest wave that the Bureau of Meteorology has recorded with the device since its installation in 1998.

The Bureau of Meteorology's Richard Carlyon said there would be some "pretty large waves" off the west coast of Victoria this weekend,

"At the moment in western Bass Strait we're forecasting wave heights of seven metres ... But waves of that height won't be seen along the Surf Coast.

"Tasmania and King Island get in way of waves reaching the surf coast. The magnitudes are somewhat reduced."

Dr Carlyon said the largest waves to strike the Victorian coastline on the weekend would be west of Cape Otway to the South Australian border.

Victorian surfers scoping a weekend of big-wave riding should keep their eye on local conditions, he said.

"We're still forecasting waves of around three to four metres in the Surf Coast region, but surfers should keep in mind our forecasts are for offshore," Dr Carlyon said.

"It can be hard for us to forecast surf heights at particular beaches," Dr Carlyon said.

‘‘We’ve had fairly deep low pressure systems moving south of Tasmania and they’re throwing up these waves.

‘‘We’ve had a very stationary type of weather pattern. We’ve been stuck in these south-westerly winds blowing off the Antarctic peninsula up towards Tasmania and it’s been like that for a number of days.

‘‘It’s been a slow-moving pattern that has allowed those wave patterns to continually build along the west coast of Tasmania.’’

Dale Sumner, general manager of the Lakes Entrance Fishermen’s Co-operative, said most of the 40-boat local fleet had chosen to stay at home to avoid the conditions.

‘‘There are vessels at sea working . . . but those vessels are used to working in extreme weather conditions,’’ he said.

‘‘I take my hat off to these guys. How they can work in some of these conditions is beyond belief. The weather forecast is going to keep the majority of the fleet in port until at least Tuesday. The wind might drop off but the seas will be too high for them to go to sea.

‘‘When you hear of 100 km/h hour winds, in some areas they find that extreme, but we get that quite regularly.’’

Rod Casement, who owns two of vessels which have braved the conditions, said his men were working in conditions which were ‘‘a bit rougher than usual’’.

He expected the swells to hit five metres. ‘‘We actually like it when it’s a bit rougher because we get better prices for our fish,’’ he told The Age.

‘‘A lot of the other boats can’t get out. It’s not so much bravery, it’s just part of the job.’’

In Sydney, surfers can expect a weekend of dangerous conditions as huge swells smashing the shores. meteorologist Martin Palmer said southern Sydney was expecting waves up to 2.4 metres.

Mr Palmer said the surf would begin to drop tonight but swells were predicted to remain high around Sydney until early next week.

"All this has been caused by a big, big low which is now hitting New Zealand and is moving away from us for the weekend," he said.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Dolphinarium in SW Turkey closed after NGO campaign

From Daily News & Economic REview (Turkey English language)

Dolphinarium in SW Turkey closed after NGO campaign

A dolphinarium in southwestern Turkey that attracted controversy due to concerns about the living conditions of the venue’s dolphins has been closed and the park’s mammals freed following efforts from civil society organizations.

“This has been an intense but effective campaign but we will only feel truly happy when the [dolphins] are finally back in the wild. This shows how much can be achieved by a collaborative effort and people working together across the world with one collective aim: a real testament to the power of the people. With modern communications and clear aims, we have shown what can be achieved,” Nichola Chapman of Dolphin Angels, one of the nongovernmental organizations that fought to secure the release of the park’s two dolphins, said over the weekend.

Dolphin Angels, along with NGOs Born Free and SAD/DEMAG, fought for many months to close the dolphinarium and free its dolphins.

Businessman Alexandr Kuznetzov and a group of investors rented land in the resort of Hisarönü from Ölüdeniz Municipality in the southwestern province of Muğla earlier in 2010. They brought two dolphins, Tom and Misha, from the nearby district of Kaş in May and were reportedly charging tourists 50 pounds for the opportunity to swim with the mammals at the dolphinarium.

The campaign to save the animals was started by a group of British expats and Turks who organized protest marches and lobbied the Turkish government. Calling themselves the Dolphin Angels, they marched against the Dolphin Park and persuaded many travel companies to boycott the dolphinarium.

“Captivity is unacceptable for dolphins. We simply cannot stand by and allow this kind of exploitation to happen,” lawyer Şule Beder said in the wake of the announcement to close the dolphinarium. “For months we have been determined to send them back to the wild where they belong. The shabby pool is no place for these wonderful creatures.”

Negotiations with the facility’s owners and the local authority finally secured a license for NGOs to care for the dolphins.

Dolphins to be moved to Mediterranean

Together with marine experts John Knight and Doug Cartlidge and a team from British Divers Marine Life Rescue, plans have been made to move the dolphins to a special sea reserve where they will be rehabilitated and eventually released into the wild.

On Saturday, Born Free was waiting for the final paperwork to secure the dolphins’ permanent release. The move to a location off the south coast of Turkey will take five hours, a journey that may further damage the mammals’ health.

Knight, however, believes the move is a risk worth taking. “Despite the conditions, it is testimony to their natural strength they have survived so far. I am reasonably confident we can pull it off but a move from a place like this will always carry risks,” he said.

Lesley Robinson, Cath İnanur, Can İnanur, Dawne Büyük, Meral Büyük, Doğan Eraslan and many others worked tirelessly to rescue the dolphins and were supported by more than 21,000 members of the ‘Free the Ölüdeniz Dolphins’ Facebook group, created by Joanne Davies and the Calış Beach Forum.

“This has been an amazing journey for us all, with so many ups and downs, like a roller coaster,” Robinson said. “Now the dolphins’ own journey back to freedom has begun. There will be many more months of hard work but the experts are now there to help Tom and Misha recover their strength.”

Erdem Danyer and his assistant, Işıl Aytemiz, two veterinarians who have been working together with the British team of experts, will help with the dolphins’ care and rehabilitation.

NGOs plead for continued donations

Tom and Misha’s mood seemed to improve Saturday as rescuers prepared their equipment in Fethiye. Moreover, in what must only be considered a lucky omen, a pod of wild dolphins swam over to greet the pair.

Although the dolphinarium has now been closed and arrangements made to transport the dolphins elsewhere, Born Free and Dolphin Angels are appealing for donations to help fund the rescue, which will cost the charities 150,000 pounds.

On Friday Sept. 10, there will be a jazz fundraising evening at Aksazlar Beach Club in Fethiye to help with the rehabilitation and education programs. Organizers are hoping the event, one of the first of its kind ever staged in Fethiye, will provide an opportunity to celebrate the dolphins’ release while also covering the cost of their rescue.

Meanwhile, on Oct. 3 at The Winehouse, in Üzümlü, Fethiye, there will be an auction of a specially commissioned oil painting by the well-known and highly respected British artist, Ben Maile.

To contribute to Tom and Misha’s rescue fund, visit

Gulf oil spill: Why raise the faulty blowout preventer? It's evidence.

From Aug 20, 2010, Christian Science Monitor

Gulf oil spill: Why raise the faulty blowout preventer? It's evidence.

The 450-ton blowout preventer resting a mile below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico is set to become Exhibit A in a Justice Department investigation into what caused the explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon rig, killing 11 men, sinking the platform, and resulting in the biggest oil spill in US history.

Preparations are under way for the massive blowout preventer stack of valves – a unit taller than a school bus is long – to be brought to the surface. The piece of equipment, says Robert Bea, a former engineer for Shell Oil who is now a professor at the University of California at Berkeley, is "a key part of the crime scene."

Since the disaster began in April, the public has been bombarded with detailed explanations about how the "shear ram" valve on the blowout preventer (BOP) was supposed to slice through the drill pipe in an emergency and shut off the well. That it failed is clear enough.

But why it failed remains anything but clear. All the digging through documents, all the mountains of testimony before Congress and federal panels have led only to conjecture about possible causes of failure. Careful dissection of the BOP and a look inside the steel jaws that did not close now appear to be the only ways to learn what happened.

"The BOP is this key piece of physical evidence – perhaps the last best hope for putting the pieces of the puzzle of the Deepwater Horizon together," says John Rogers Smith, associate professor of petroleum engineering at Louisiana State University.

Thad Allen, the Gulf national incident commander, on Thursday gave the go-ahead for BP and Transocean, the drill rig operator, to replace the Deepwater Horizon's BOP with another and to bring the failed unit to the surface. But he warned BP that the BOP must be treated carefully to preserve evidence.

"Each procedure should recognize and preserve the forensic and evidentiary value of the BOP and any material removed from the BOP," he wrote in Thursday's directive to BP Chief Managing Director Bob Dudley. Along those lines, Justice Department investigators are now hunting for blowout preventer specialists who could conduct a forensic examination of the unit, one source told the Monitor.

The BOP may be the last best chance to find a "smoking gun" that tells investigators whether the blowout was a result of human error, mechanical failure, bad maintenance, faulty procedures – or a combination of those, industry experts say.

"Looking carefully at that BOP is going to be critical to understanding what happened," agrees Adam Bourgoyne, a BOP expert and former dean of the College of Engineering at Louisiana State University. "With it, you're going to be able to analyze a lot about what happened just prior to the explosion."

For instance, there's the question of whether the BOP was opened and closed multiple times in the confusion of the blowout after high-pressure gas started shooting across the deck of the Deepwater Horizon rig. That might explain why, in video images, two pieces of pipe appeared to be sticking out of the top of the BOP. If the unit makes it to the surface with the pipe still inside it, part of the mystery could be solved.

"The BOP could have closed, once shut off at the sea floor," he explains. "But with all the expanding oil and gas still flowing to the surface a mile above, there could have been confusion aboard the rig over whether it actually closed or not – and the operators might have tried it again."

Dan Albers, a petroleum engineer and member of the Deepwater Horizon Study Group at UC Berkeley, says the BOP could help answer questions about a major theory concerning the device's malfunction.

If oil and gas shot up the gap, or "annulus," between the rock and the drill casing (a steel pipe just over nine inches wide), it could have lifted that large-diameter pipe and jammed it up into the vicinity of the BOP shear rams. BP never installed the casing hanger lockdown device, Mr. Albers says. If that happened, it would have made it impossible for the blind rams to close.

"This still doesn't answer the questions as to why the other BOP devices didn't activate," he writes in an e-mail. "These I relate to electro hydraulic control problems caused when the well blew out and the fire ensued destroying the control system."

Getting the BOP to the surface intact is key to determining whether such theories hold water, Dr. Bea writes in an e-mail interview.

"If the salvage of the BOP and the previous 'activities' have not destroyed the evidence that would confirm that the casing was shoved upward, then we would have one most plausible scenario in the drilling that led to the blowout," he says.

Mr. Allen said Thursday that BP had been directed to flush out the current blowout preventer and capping stack, clean it, and fill it with sea water. After that would come pressure tests. If those tests show the cement cap is holding, then the BOP could be removed and replaced by another BOP now being used by the second relief well from the Development Driller II rig. This process is expected to take place the week after Labor Day.

The main reason for doing this, Allen said, is to put the best possible BOP on the well in advance of pumping heavy mud into the bottom of BP's Macondo well through the adjacent primary relief well. It's a safeguard just in case any weaknesses remain in the concrete cap already put in place from the top last month.

While the tests go on, drilling of the relief well has been halted just 50 feet above and three feet to the side of the main well. This is being done out of "an overabundance of caution related to minimizing risk associated with the intersection of the well," Allen told reporters.

That said, each step would also be viewed through another lens: court. To that end, he said, the BOP would be protected.

"We do not want to have damage to that blowout preventer if we can avoid it," Allen said, "because it's going to be material evidence to exactly what happened during the event itself."

Gulf oil spill puzzle: A giant piece begins long rise to surface

From Sep 3, 2010

Christian Science Monitor: Gulf oil spill puzzle: A giant piece begins long rise to surface

Atlanta, GA
The mystery of why the massive blowout preventer at the heart of the Deepwater Horizon accident failed and caused the enormous Gulf oil spill is a step closer to being solved.

Clearing the way for the drilling of a final relief well to permanently kill the Macondo well, BP and its now well-worn underwater remotely-operated vehicles (ROVs) disconnected the troubled piece of equipment at 1:20 Central time Friday in order to lift it to the surface of the Gulf of Mexico.

The pesky four-story steel structure, part of the BOP "riser package" that connected the rig to the wellhead, failed at the time of the Deepwater explosion, leading to one of the world's worst industrial oil spills. It later continued to thwart attempts by BP's deepwater submarines to manually activate its hydraulic on-board "shearing rams."

The blowout preventer is expected to become a key piece of evidence in several federal probes, including criminal investigations, to find out the cause of the spill.

Investigators are likely to find at least some remnants of the tons of debris -- including golf balls and shredded tires -- that BP attempted to jam into the BOP to stop the flow. The underwater gusher was finally stopped on July 15 after BP placed a large containment cap on top of the riser package to stabilize the well, and then jammed cement into the wellhead. The containment cap was successfully removed Thursday.

Retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the federal incident commander, said it will take 24 to 36 hours for the BOP to make the long trip from the Gulf's darkest depths to the surface.

"We will continue to closely monitor progress as the BOP, which along with the latching device weighs approximately one million pounds, is lifted to the surface in the next 24-36 hours," Mr. Allen said in a statement.

BP shares rose on the news as did shares for Cameron International, the maker of the device.

According to Reuters, the BOP will be taken to a NASA facility in Michoud, Louisiana, where it will be examined by the US Coast Guard and the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which are investigating the spill.

The blowout preventer "is one piece of evidence that has the potential to provide some answers," the team said on its website.

The spill caused an environmental nightmare in the Gulf, fairly ruined the summer tourist season, and reinvigorated a national debate about America's energy future. Federal regulators fanned out across the Gulf's shallow and deepwater drill rigs to double-test other BOPs as Washington imposed a drilling moratorium in the deep Gulf.

Placing a working BOP on the stymied well will clear the way for BP to move ahead with the final stage of killing the well: By mid-month, a two-pronged relief well effort will inject concrete into the wellpipe and surrounding casing at the bottom of the well, some 18,000 feet into the bedrock, officials say.

Over 200 million gallons of oil is estimated to have flowed into the Gulf after the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20, killing 11 workers and injuring 17 others.

Sea Creatures set sail on rafts of Kelp

From Australian Geographic: Sea Creatures set sail on rafts of Kelp

AFTER A 600-KM JOURNEY from the sub-Antarctic, a variety of crustaceans, molluscs and other small marine animals have washed up on a beach in New Zealand.

Scientists say this confirms theories that these unlikely adventurers are able to travel vast distances to settle in new homes.

Associate Professor Jon Waters and Dr Ceridwen Fraser, zoologists from the University of Otago, believe that prevailing winds and water currents carried the bull kelp and its aquatic hitchhikers on the Antarctic Circumpolar Current. They drifted northwards from the Snares and Auckland island chains all the way to NZ's South Island.

Travelling ecosystem

The team analysed six southern bull kelp specimens found on St Clair Beach in southern Otago in February 2009 and May 2010, and turned up large goose barnacles and another nine marine species, including sea spiders, snails and sea stars. The discovery solves the enduring mystery of how these animals - many sedentary - move between the continents.

Ceridwen told Australian Geographic the animals likely survived the crossing by "sheltering in the protective hollows and munching at the kelp; they eat away and eventually eat out nice protective burrows that they can shelter in."

Vast quantities of bull kelp have been spotted floating along the current, which is driven by prevailing westerly winds at subantarctic latitudes, says Marine ecologist Professor Steve Smith with the Southern Cross University in Coffs Harbour, NSW. The new study addresses one of the 'missing links' in the movement of these creatures across the Southern Ocean, he says. "It provides the first real evidence for rafting as an important mode of dispersal."

Iguana raft

Although the study focused on small crustaceans and molluscs, Ceridwen says past studies have suggested larger animals might also be able to use floating wood and seaweed to raft across oceans. The revelation sounds like it could be the sequel to the hit movie Finding Nemo.

"Iguanas were found washed up on a beach on an island in the Caribbean after a hurricane - these lizards had never before been found on the island, and it is thought they rafted over on floating wood in the storm," she says. "Other marine creatures such as fish can also use the floating kelp as habitat and travel with it across open ocean they might otherwise avoid."

While Ceridwen says the ability of small animals to travel and establish new colonies is "a great survival strategy, especially in the face of climate change," her discovery may have darker implications as a method of dispersal for more invasive pests, such as Undaria seaweed.

The research is published today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B journal.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Where's the Oil? On the Gulf Floor, Scientists Say

From US News & World Report: Where's the Oil? On the Gulf Floor, Scientists Say

NEW ORLEANS—Far beneath the surface of the Gulf of Mexico, deeper than divers can go, scientists say they are finding oil from the busted BP well on the sea's muddy and mysterious bottom.

Oil at least two inches thick was found Sunday night and Monday morning about a mile beneath the surface. Under it was a layer of dead shrimp and other small animals, said University of Georgia researcher Samantha Joye, speaking from the helm of a research vessel in the Gulf.

The latest findings show that while the federal government initially proclaimed much of the spilled oil gone, now it's not so clear.

At these depths, the ocean is a cold and dark world. Yet scientists say that even though it may be out of sight, oil found there could do significant harm to the strange creatures that dwell in the depths—tube worms, tiny crustaceans and mollusks, single-cell organisms and Halloween-scary fish with bulging eyes and skeletal frames.

"I expected to find oil on the sea floor," Joye said Monday morning in a ship-to-shore telephone interview. "I did not expect to find this much. I didn't expect to find layers two inches thick. It's weird the stuff we found last night. Some of it was really dense and thick."

Joye said 10 of her 14 samples showed visible oil, including all the ones taken north of the busted well. She found oil on the sea floor as far as 80 miles away from the site of the spill.

"It's kind of like having a blizzard where the snow comes in and covers everything," Joye said.

And the look of the oil, its state of degradation, the way it settled on freshly dead animals all made it unlikely that the crude was from the millions of gallons of oil that naturally seep into the Gulf from the sea bottom each year, she said. Later this week, the oil will be tested for the chemical fingerprints that would conclusively link it to the BP spill.

"It has to be a recent event," Joye said. "There's still pieces of warm bodies there."

Since the well was capped on July 15 after some 200 million gallons flowed into the Gulf, there have been signs of resilience on the surface and the shore. Sheens have disappeared, while some marshlands have shoots of green. This seeming recovery is likely a result of massive amounts of chemical dispersants, warm waters and a Gulf that is used to degrading massive amounts of oil, scientists say.

Animal deaths also are far short of worst-case scenarios. But at the same time, a massive invisible plume of oil has been found under the surface, shifting scientists' concerns from what can be easily seen to what can't be.

For Ian MacDonald, a Florida State University biological oceanographer who wasn't part of Joye's team, the latest findings confirm that government assessments about how much oil remains—especially a report on the subject by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in August—were too optimistic.

The oil "did not disappear," he said. "It sank."

Not all scientists agree with this assessment.

Ed Overton, a Louisiana State University chemist who has analyzed the spill for NOAA, doubted much oil was resting on the bottom. He said the heavier components in oil—the asphalts—make up only about 1 percent of the oil that was spilled.

And Roger Sassen, an organic geochemist at Texas A&M University who has studied natural oil seeps, said so much oil seeps naturally into the Gulf each year that it's hard to argue that the BP spill will make a significant difference.

Nonetheless, the big questions now are exactly how much oil is at the bottom and how many organisms are being exposed to it, said Robert Carney, an oceanographer and deep-sea expert at Louisiana State University. The answers to those questions could shed some light on the unseen damage to wildlife from the oil spill.

Research: Human Impacts On The Deep Seafloor Quantified

Underwater Times: Research: Human Impacts On The Deep Seafloor Quantified

SOUTHAMPTON, U.K. -- Scientists have for the first time estimated the physical footprint of human activities on the deep seafloor of the North East Atlantic. The findings published in the journal PLoS ONE reveal that the area disturbed by bottom trawling commercial fishing fleets exceeds the combined physical footprint of other major human activities considered.

The deep seafloor covers approximately 60% of Earth's surface, but only a tiny fraction of it has been studied to date. Yet as technology advances and resources from relatively shallow marine environments are depleted, human impacts on the deep seafloor are likely to increase.

"Information on the location and spatial extent of human activities affecting the deep-sea environment is crucial for conservation of seafloor ecosystems and for governance and sustainable management of the world's oceans," said Angela Benn of the National Oceanography Centre, who led the new study.

The researchers focused on the OSPAR maritime area of the North East Atlantic, where human activities are particularly intense. The area covers over eleven million square kilometers, about 75 percent of which is deeper than 200 meters, and includes important fishing grounds such as those of Hatton and Rockall.

Using available data for the year 2005, they mapped and estimated the spatial extent of intentional human activities occurring directly on the seafloor as well as structures and artifacts present on the seafloor resulting from past activities.

They looked exclusively at the physical footprint rather than the consequential ecological effects of disturbance, contamination and pollution, which are harder to ascertain. One difficulty that they faced was that of accessing data on human activities that was accurate, up to date and comprehensive, and in a suitable format for analysis.

"Some governments, public organizations and private companies were far more forthcoming with information than others," explained Benn. "Significant improvements are needed in data collection and availability, and this requirement needs to be built into international conventions and treaties with a legal framework in place to ensure informed environmental management."

Despite difficulties and various uncertainties, the researchers' assessment suggests that, although now banned, previously dumped radioactive waste, munitions and chemical weapons together have the lowest physical footprint of the human activities considered, although they do not consider potential dispersal after leakage.

Non-fisheries marine scientific research also has a relatively small footprint, whereas those of fisheries marine scientific research, telecommunication cables and the oil and gas industry are moderate. However, even on the lowest estimates, the spatial extent of bottom trawling is at least ten times that for the other activities assessed, with a physical footprint greater than that of all the others combined.

The study estimated the total area of physical imprint in 2005 to be around 28,000 km2. However many human activities in the deep sea are concentrated in certain areas, particularly in shallower depths between 200 m and 1500 m, and in particular habitats which become disproportionally impacted. The OSPAR area comprises many different habitats each with different and diverse ecosystems. The percentage impact in each of these habitats would provide important information but unfortunately there is virtually no detailed seabed mapping to provide this information.

As demands drive human activities ever deeper the imprint will become more widespread. "Consequently," argues Benn, "there needs to be a much greater understanding of the relative impacts of human activities on the deep seafloor, and in particular how these activities affect seafloor ecosystems and biodiversity."

Friday, September 17, 2010

Monterey sea otters killed by toxic algae

Monterey sea otters killed by toxic algae

A toxic algae that forms in reservoirs, lakes and stagnant freshwater ponds was responsible for the deaths of at least 21 threatened California sea otters in the Monterey Bay area, a scientific study revealed Friday.

The discovery, reported in the scientific journal PLoS ONE, is alarming because the toxin, called microcystin, had never been linked to the death of a marine mammal and was not believed to be capable of surviving for long periods in saltwater.

"Based on what we know, this is the first documentation of a freshwater algal bloom being transmitted to upper-level marine mammals, specifically a federally listed species," said Melissa Miller, a senior wildlife veterinarian and pathologist for the California Department of Fish and Game and the study's lead author.

The three-year average population of California otters, also known as southern sea otters, declined 3.6 percent this year, the second consecutive drop after a decade of increases. The reason for the decline is a mystery, but scientists believe a variety of causes are at play, including toxic runoff.

There are 2,711 sea otters along the California coast, according to a U.S. Geological Survey study, which also reported an 11 percent drop in the number of otter pups compared with last year.

Study points to algae
Microcystin, which is commonly referred to as blue-green algae, can cause liver damage when ingested. All 21 sea otters that tested positive for the bacteria died from liver failure, according to the study, which was completed with the help of experts from UC Santa Cruz and a variety of state and federal agencies.

It is believed the toxins flowed to the ocean off the coast of Monterey in rivers and creeks. Sea urchins and shellfish near the outflow filtered the water and the poison accumulated in their bodies, which were, in turn, eaten by otters.

It has not yet been determined whether poisoning from blue-green algae is playing a major or minor role in the overall otter decline, but it was at least a factor, the researchers said. The 21 sea otters represent only a fraction of the number of mammals found dead from unknown causes along the Central California coast since 1999. Miller said the full extent of the problem will not be known until further studies can be conducted.

Microcystis is a naturally occurring algae. Its bright green blooms have long been found behind dams, particularly along the Klamath River, and in stagnant pools.

Global concern
But researchers say the microcystin toxin appears to be multiplying in the environment to the point that it is becoming a global health concern. That's because cyanobacteria, as scientists call bacterial blooms, thrive in warm water that is rich in nutrients from lawn, city and agricultural runoff. The warmer the temperatures, the more bacteria there are

Global warming, scientists say, has increased the frequency of deadly green "super-blooms."

Microcystins have been detected in brackish water before, including in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and San Francisco Bay, scientists say. The bacteria has been linked to the death of cattle and even dogs that drank the water or swam through the green slime and then licked their fur. It is also potentially dangerous to humans.

"What's really astonishing to us is that it had not been on anyone's radar as a problem in the marine environments until now," said co-author Tim Tinker, a research biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey and an adjunct professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at UC Santa Cruz.

The problem was discovered largely by mistake. In 2007, Miller kept running across the bloated, bright yellow corpses of otters near Monterey Bay, indicating acute liver failure. She searched medical journals for things that might have caused the problem and found nothing that fit until she came across blue-green algae.

Suspicions confirmed
Tissue samples confirmed her suspicion. The team of scientists she recruited eventually found high concentrations of microcystin in lakes bordering Monterey Bay and in adjacent rivers.

Blooms were also found in Pinto Lake in Watsonville, which drains into Corralitos Creek and flows into the Pajaro River. Microcystin contamination was eventually detected in the Salinas, Pajaro and San Lorenzo rivers and in the ocean at the Santa Cruz wharf.

The study found that the algae remains extremely toxic for two weeks in the ocean and that the poison can become 107 times more concentrated in shellfish. That means it is a risk to humans who consume shellfish harvested near river mouths. There are no state or federal regulations for exposure to microcystin.

"This definitely highlights the importance of monitoring water quality," Tinker said. "Here is a toxin coming into the ocean, probably affecting a lot of species, and the first indication we have of it is the death of sea otters. It is an early warning for an emerging problem."

San Francisco: Great white sharks swarm to area in summer

Great white sharks swarm to area in summer

Surfers and kayakers often take advantage of summer and fall weather along the California coast, but that bracing dip in the murky Pacific can also be a rather chilling gamble against a ghastly fate.

That's because on the West Coast those seasons belong to the great white shark.

The ferocious predators are out there now patrolling the coastline in what experts believe are increasing numbers.

"There seems to be more sharks in the water, but we don't have enough evidence yet to support that," said John McCosker, a shark expert and chairman of aquatic biology at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. "There have certainly been more sightings."

Kayakers were attacked by great whites on two separate occasions last month, pushing the number of verified great white shark attacks on humans in California to 102 since 1952. Numerous sightings of the giant predators have been recently reported, including the August mauling of a sea lion by an 18- to 20-footer off Pacifica.

The vast majority of shark attacks in California occur between July and November, McCosker said.

"The reason is there are a lot of seals and sea lions in the area at this time of year," said McCosker, who, with Robert Lea, has verified, analyzed and documented every great white attack on humans in the state. "The salmon are returning to the Sacramento River, the sea lions are following them and the sharks are following them. Meanwhile, the surfers are doing their best to imitate shark food."

Breaking new ground
A landmark study released last year by Stanford University determined that this region's genetically unique white sharks begin returning from the deep ocean to Northern California in August and begin leaving in December.

The area where the sharks gather - from the south end of Monterey Bay out to the Farallon Islands and across to Bodega Head - is known as "The Red Triangle," where McCosker said half of the state's shark attacks have occurred.

Eleven people have been killed by sharks off the California coast, the majority of them surfers, since the first documented human attack 58 years ago. The body of a probable 12th victim was never found, so he isn't counted. McCosker said there were no verified attacks before then, probably because previously very few people surfed or went into shark-infested areas for recreation. American Indians evidently knew not to go in the water during shark season, he said.

Surfers are by far the most common human victims, but the last two attacks in California have been on kayakers.

On Aug. 2, Duane Strosaker was attacked by a 15-foot or larger great white as he kayaked 5 miles out from Gaviota State Beach in Santa Barbara County.

"It attacked from my left side, with its head coming up from the water," Strosaker wrote in a blog. "Its mouth wrapped half way around the hull ... Its head was huge, and I remember seeing its eye and a hole on the side of its head, as well as its gray skin."

Strosaker pushed his paddle against the shark's head, but was afraid to hit the bloodthirsty creature out of fear it would thrash and capsize his boat.

"The whole time the shark was latched onto the kayak with my foot inside I was screaming like a little girl," he wrote. "After the longest 10-15 seconds in my life, the shark gently let go of the kayak and slid back into the water."

The same thing happened to Adam Coca of Pinole on Aug. 14. He was paddling off Pigeon Point in San Mateo County when a shark rocketed upward into the nose of his kayak, flipping it over and sending him thrashing into the water. Coca desperately held out his paddle to ward off the brute. It took a bite of the paddle and then swam away, Coca told authorities.

Another kayaker was attacked in 2007 in almost the exact same location, McCosker said.

Great white sharks, known scientifically as Carcharodon carcharias, grow as long as 20 feet and weigh 3 tons. The biggest one ever recorded was caught in 1939. It was 21 feet long and weighed 7,300 pounds, McCosker said.

The toothy beasts live worldwide in cool coastal waters and have a well-developed sense of smell and eyesight. They have an innate ability to sense changes in water pressure and electrical pulses, helping them find prey.

Female white sharks typically visit the Gulf of the Farallones in alternate years, suggesting that their migration pattern is tied to a two-year reproductive cycle. Five tagged sharks were tracked into San Francisco Bay using acoustic tags during the shark study, but there has never been a reported attack in the bay.

Nobody knows why sharks have recently been attacking kayakers. It may simply be because there are more paddlers out there.

McCosker said it would be foolish to think that a kayak is adequate protection, as the first documented great white attack on a kayaker in 1989 showed in gruesome detail. The female kayaker in that case was found floating in the ocean near Malibu. She had a large bite on her left thigh, defensive wounds on her hands and no water in her lungs, suggesting she died from her injuries and not from drowning. Her male companion and his kayak were never found, McCosker said.

The most recent reported sighting of a great white was Aug. 30, when sightseers spotted one attacking a sea lion about 150 yards off Linda Mar Beach in Pacifica.

Fighting helps little
The study of shark attacks by McCosker and Lea concludes that punching sharks in the nose, grabbing the gills or otherwise fighting the animal probably has little effect. Rather, humans' best defense appears to be that their flesh or neoprene is probably distasteful to sharks.

The statistics on attacks do not include the numerous bumpings and brushings of surfers' boards. McCosker also notes that some people who were reported as missing at sea or drowned and not recovered may have actually been consumed by white sharks.

The bottom line, McCosker said, is that right now is not the safest time to swim, surf or kayak in the ocean, especially near the Farallon Islands, Año Nuevo, Point Reyes and Tomales Bay. It is significantly safer to do those things between January and July, when the sharks live in the deep ocean near Hawaii.

Those die-hards who must go in the water in the fall should take a buddy with them, he said. That's because after taking a bite and tasting unappetizing human flesh instead of tasty blubber, a shark often leaves in disgust. But if it does stay to eat, it usually waits for its prey to bleed out.

"If you are attacked, the white shark is not going to consume you until you are dead," McCosker said. "If you don't have anyone to take you back in, you will probably bleed to death. If you have someone to take you to shore, there is a very high probability of survival."

Cod stocks could recover is measures adopted: WWF

Halifax Canada: Cod stocks could recover is measures adopted: WWF

HALIFAX — An international conservation group says Canada and other nations could rebuild depleted cod stocks if they clamp down on bycatch and develop a recovery plan.

The World Wildlife Fund today issued a set of measures it wants the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization, or NAFO, to adopt at its annual meeting next week in Halifax.

The fund wants NAFO to press countries to reduce bycatch so that stocks on the Grand Banks off Newfoundland and Labrador can rebuild.

Bob Rangeley, vice-president of the Atlantic branch of WWF-Canada, says cod stocks have been increasing steadily over the last several years.

But he says they are still at near historically low levels and won't fully recover unless countries deal with cod bycatch, or fish that are usually caught unintentionally.

Rangeley says consumers and industry are demanding sustainably caught seafood, which could force fisheries management groups like NAFO to better protect the resource.

BP under fire over fish

From The Sun (UK Newspaper)
BP under fire over fish

BP has come under fire yet again after these gruesome images emerged of hundreds of thousands of dead fish in a river in the US.
Wildlife officials have launched a major operation to find the cause of the "fish kill" after oil was spotted in the grisly photos.

The dead fish were found near the mouth of the Mississippi River — an area heavily affected by the BP oil spill.

Scientists had previously cleared the oil company of any blame saying the horror was caused by depleted oxygen levels.

But officials from Louisiana's Plaquemines Parish — where the fish were found — claim traces of oil can be seen in the photos.

Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser called for "extensive testing" to be carried out on the dead fish.

Mr Nungesser said: "We can't continue to see these fish kills.

"We need some additional tests to find out why these fish are dying in large numbers.

"If it is low oxygen, we need to identify the cause."


The types of fish affected include pogies, redfish, drum, crabs, shrimp and freshwater eel.

A dead baby whale was also found close to the site earlier this week.

BP's Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded off the coast of southern Lousiana in April killing 11 people and leaking about 4.9million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

Environmental scientist Ed Overton said warm temperatures can drain oxygen from water and cause fish kills.

Mr Overton said: "It is improbable, not impossible, that this is the result of oil toxicity."