Friday, July 29, 2011

Researchers refine spawning of sea cucumber

From the Daily Newsminer: Researchers refine spawning of sea cucumber
KENAI, Alaska - They weren't completely surprised.

It had been three days and the researchers at the Alutiiq Pride Shellfish Hatchery in Seward had seen signs they were close to their goal.

The male red sea cucumbers were spawning already, induced by water, light and temperature manipulations conducted by Charlotte Regula-Whitefield and hatchery director Jeff Hetrick.

"It's a gradual process - usually a male will spawn first, then you know you've kind of got them ready and then another male will go," Hetrick said.

However, the female was finicky, seemingly blocking Regula-Whitefield's efforts to do what few could before - achieve a successful spawn of red sea cucumbers in captivity. But based on previous research, Hetrick knew it was the right time of the year for the animals to feel the urge to spawn. The hatchery's inducing factors just hadn't been quite right.

However, on June 14, the females got comfortable enough with the conditions Regula-Whitefield created and a breakthrough was achieved with the release of egg and sperm.

"It was exciting," Regula-Whitefield said. "I was kind of surprised - I wasn't expecting to get it to work so quickly."

The first spawn of the sea cucumbers produced 10,000 juveniles and Hetrick expects the second spawn to produce more than 100,000.

"In northern climates, to my knowledge, no one has been near as successful as this," he said.

"I can't say we are doing cartwheels up and down the hallway, but sure, this is a three-year effort in the making," he continued. "I am extremely pleased we had a controlled spawn and multiple ones and that those larva had set."

The hatchery is the only one of its kind in Alaska and has a component dedicated to performing research on new species in addition to regular work with geoducks, razor clams, red and blue crabs and others.

Hetrick and staff have been looking into sea cucumber spawning for several years with the support of the Southeast Alaska Regional Dive Fisheries Association.

"They have commercial diving on mostly geoducks and sea cucumbers," Hetrick explained. "They are looking at the possibility of enhancing some of the populations because, like all things, they are concerned about the diminishing resource."

Phil Doherty, executive director of SARDFA, said last month's spawning breakthrough gives the association a bit of hope for long-term enhancement ideas for the multi-million dollar sea cucumber fishery.

"We are putting our money where our mouth is," he said. "We are interested in sea cucumber enhancement and we think it can work and we realize we are in the very, very early stage of this. This is not like a salmon hatchery...this is all brand new stuff. No one has done this before."

The reasons such a spawn hadn't been achieved before was because shipping the animals often caused damage to their health.

"They have a peculiar response to stress , which is called evisceration where they basically extrude all their internal organs and they have to recover from the shipping stress and make it on to be reproductive or even live," Hetrick said.

Regula-Whitefield, a University of Alaska Fairbanks graduate student and Ph.D. candidate, took the sea cucumber spawning efforts at the hatchery from a side project to a full-scale effort, Hetrick said.

The researchers credit both the healthy sea cucumbers they received and their accurate mimicry of natural environments for the success of the first and subsequent spawns.

Regula-Whitefield can now achieve fertilization of more than 90 percent of red sea cucumber eggs without killing the adults, which differs from previous captive fertilization - or strip spawning - efforts that required killing the brood stock and did not achieve high rates of fertilization.

She has segregated groups of larvae to study the effects of varying types of feed and thinks it would take 4 to 6 years for sea cucumbers to reach adult size.

The research is a blend of production science - seeing how many they can make at what cost and how healthy they can keep the animals - and research science - looking at their diets and other life activity.

"We'll be able to learn things like how fast they grow, what kind of manufactured or artificial diets that may or may not work and just see if we can make juvenile sea cucumbers," Hetrick said.

The sea cucumber has been studied since the mid-1970s, but there wasn't a reliable way to get them to spawn for research purposes.

"There hasn't been any motivation for the production of sea cucumbers," Hetrick said. "There has been some attempts in labs that has been done by researchers for different things but nothing to the scale that would be applicable to what we are doing."

The Alaska sea cucumber fishery - prevalent in Southeast - started in the mid-1980s.

The fishery has grown in its brief history . In its opening season, seven divers harvested 34,043 pounds at an estimated ex-vessel value of $7,149 in 1986, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Now, according to statistics, 169 divers harvested 1.6 million pounds for an estimated value of $3.7 million during the 2009 season.

"Apparently there are some things that are unique about Alaskan (sea cucumbers) that the buyers like and exactly what that is, I'm not sure," Hetrick said.

Doherty said the market for sea cucumbers has improved over the last several years with a ballooning demand internationally. Fishermen in Puget Sound are currently seeing $4.25 per pound for cucumbers, but that price might not hit Alaska due to added operational costs, he said.

In addition to being considered luxury food items in the Orient - the skin is dried and used in soups, the meat cut up and added to sushi - other extracts from the animal have uses in the pharmaceutical, cosmetic and medical fields, Doherty said.

In some areas, the sea cucumber population has remained fairly stable, Doherty said, but other areas have shown decline and some have shown enough reductions that fishermen don't fish them anymore.

However, the increasing population of sea otters and their appetite for the sea cucumber in Southeast has influenced some of those areas.

"There are areas we think we can go back into if we get this spawning in the hatchery (to happen) on a regular basis," Doherty said. "If you can grow out the juveniles and then transport them down here and start to enhance the wild population, then that's the long term goal. We are still a long ways a way from realizing that."

Scott Walker, an area biologist for the Department of Fish and Game's Ketchikan Commercial Fisheries Management Area, said the issue of enhancing the natural stock of sea cucumbers is a "very complex" one that's often discussed.

"There are real issues here," he said. "It is one of those things that potentially could happen if it happened to be in the right place. You can dump a bunch of sea cucumbers into an area at a small size and they could instantly be gobbled up by sea stars and not have a good grip on the bottom and not have enough food there. Or you could drop into an area and its very good cucumber habitat and there is very little predation and the temperatures and everything is just right and you do really well."

For now, Hetrick and Regula-Whitefield are still happy with their first breakthrough step.

"It is always exciting to do something like this especially with an animal like this because it is...completely out of our comfort zone," Hetrick said. "...You learn so much about animals in captivity that we don't know about otherwise in nature."

Diving into the abyss aboard Britain's world-leading submarine rescue system

From Mail Online: Diving into the abyss aboard Britain's world-leading submarine rescue system
Eleven years after 118 submariners met a grisly death at the bottom of the ocean in the Kursk, a British team has developed the most advanced underwater rescue system in the world. Andrew Preston watches them go into action
The British co-pilot of the rescue vehicle speaks slowly and deliberately into his microphone: ‘Lima, Lima, Lima.’

The signal is broadcast directly into the Mediterranean Sea via ‘underwater telephone’ using low frequency sound waves. The message is picked up in the control room of the Alrosa, a Russian submarine from the Black Sea fleet. The code words mean that the Nato rescue vehicle, known as Nemo, has successfully ‘mated’, or docked, with the Russian sub.
At the same time a diver clambers through a hatch in the floor of Nemo with a spanner. He follows up the message with two loud taps on the hatch of the submarine casing beneath him, then after a short pause taps a third time. This is the signal that it is now safe for the Russian crew to open the outer hatch. The two vessels have established a hydrostatic water-tight seal, and suction is now the only thing holding them together 300ft underwater.
All this is happening on the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea just off the coast of Cartagena in south-east Spain. Shortly afterwards the submarine hatch of the diesel submarine opens and a smiling Russian face appears. History has been made.

When it was built during the Cold War, the Kilo-class Alrosa was designed for anti-submarine and anti-ship warfare. Its mission was to snoop, avoid detection, and try to track and, if required, attack Nato forces. Now, for the first time, a Russian submarine is actually taking part in a Nato exercise.
Inside the rescue vehicle it is cramped and humid. In the forward compartment, with its bulbous clear acrylic nose on the front, the pilot and co-pilot sit surrounded by joysticks and a myriad of dials and switches. Behind them, a Navy diver acts as the operator for the rescue chamber, which in an emergency can deliver up to 15 people at a time to the surface, or two injured submariners on stretchers.
But today special guests are moving the other way. Squashed together in the back of Nemo, their heads bent forwards and knees touching from benches on either side, are military VIPs from Russia, the U.S. and other Nato nations, who cross from the module into the submarine, led by General Nikolai Makarov, Chief of Defence Staff of the Russian Armed Forces.

This exercise comes 11 years after the Kursk disaster, when 118 Russian submariners were left to die 350ft down in the Barents Sea. Back then the Russian government refused to ask for assistance after an explosion onboard sank the submarine.

It is still unclear how many died in the initial explosion and how long the other survivors stayed alive, although grim tales have since come out of tapping being heard from inside the hull. What remains a possibility is that some of those men might have been saved.
‘The Russians learned many lessons after that,’ says Captain David Dittmer of the U.S. Navy.

‘But when a Russian auxiliary sub with seven men on board became entangled in lines and stuck on the Pacific Ocean floor in 2005 they did ask for help, and a British remote vehicle was sent to cut them free. They were just one hour short of their oxygen running out.
‘Now the Russians have changed further and are very enthusiastic to participate. They publicly want to be portrayed as leaders in this field. Submariners are a family too; we all understand that we have an enemy in common: the sea.’
Nato’s submarine rescue system is the most advanced in the world and is based in Faslane just north of the Firth of Clyde.

Nemo was built in North Yorkshire and Britain is a world leader in this technology. The system is jointly owned by Britain, France and Norway, and is now managed by Rolls-Royce. The £75 million cost for development, construction and the first ten years of its life is shared three ways.
Nemo can operate in heavy seas, in waves up to 16ft high, and can rescue from depths of 2,000ft beneath the surface. Beyond that, submariners recognise that there is no hope – their boat will simply implode and be blasted into pieces.
This latest ‘free-swimming’ vehicle replaced an earlier LR5 rescue vehicle, the idea for which came to former Royal Navy submariner Roger Chapman after he almost died when he was trapped 1,575ft down in a civilian mini-submarine in 1973. He and a colleague had been laying a telephone cable in a two-man sub on the bed of the Atlantic, 150 miles off the cost of south-west Ireland. After three and a half days they were found and pulled to safety.

The LR5 has since been leased to Australia, while the British have also sold systems to Singapore, South Korea and the LR7 rescue vehicle to China. At a recent submarine rescue conference a Chinese admiral made it clear to members of the British contingent, through an interpreter, that China would have bought more had our defence export rules not forbidden it.
For the ‘Bold Monarch’ exercise in the Mediterranean, diesel submarines from Spain, Portugal, Turkey and Russia were ‘bottomed’, with rescue vehicles from Italy, the U.S., Russia and Sweden as well as Nemo, along with specialist divers and hyperbaric medical teams working to help rescue them.

The 2,000 participants in the exercise included representatives from more than 20 nations; so as well as a historic meeting for Russian submariners with Nato, it also gave a Greek officer the chance to go onboard a Turkish submarine.
‘By their very nature submarine missions are secretive, except in the conduct of search and rescue, which brings nations together,’ says Rear Admiral Ian Corder, commander for allied submarine operations in the north Atlantic region.
He is based in the Nato building at the high-security military headquarters in Northwood, just outside London. Down a spiral staircase from his office and below ground is the Maritime Operations Centre, with one side wall covered in giant screens.
At the moment counterpiracy is a major focus here, but if a sub were to get into trouble in the north Atlantic region, for which he is responsible (from the North Pole as far south as Gibraltar), then this is where the rescue operation would be co-ordinated.
If a submarine is in danger it will release UHF/VHF indicator buoys, which broadcast using reserved maritime frequencies. They can also release buoys linked to satellites which send signals with an ID for the submarine which can only be recognised by its own country’s authorities.

Rescuers can then log on to a password-protected website, which holds details of all the potential rescue systems around the world, and their availability, and they can plan via instant messaging and in secure chat rooms.

But it’s once they are alerted that the problems begin: how deep is the stricken submarine, how bad is the damage, what is the state of the sea, how is the submarine positioned, is there debris around it, and how many injuries are there?
Submariners can evacuate via escape locks if it is not too deep, but nowadays they are encouraged to wait – they can survive for up to seven days on a bottomed boat, unless something catastrophic has happened. Nemo is designed to make its first rescue within 72 hours.

First, a ‘vessel of opportunity’ has to be chartered. This must have at least 4,400sq ft of deck space, and will deliver Nemo to the location of a stricken submarine. A total of 1,007 such vessels are being tracked at the moment, most of them working in the offshore oil industry. They cost between £17,000 to £40,000 per day to charter. Today’s ‘mother ship’ is Norwegian, the second biggest tug in the world, which is so new it still smells of paint.
But Nemo is just one part of an entire rescue system. First an ROV (Remotely Operated Vessel) is sent to check the state of the sub, look for debris and, if required, deliver a pod containing equipment for oxygen generation and carbon dioxide extraction, as well as water and food

If a submarine is damaged then those on board will more than likely be experiencing high levels of pressure deep under the sea – so the other vital part of the Nato set-up is the TUP (transfer under pressure) system, which is designed to prevent rescued men suffering decompression sickness, or the bends. If Nemo acts like an ambulance then this is the hospital.
When it returns to the surface and is raised into its cradle it docks with two decompression chambers, which can house 72 crew members. A special medical chamber holds up to six. If required there are also two pods, which look like Apollo capsules, which can be used to air-transport under pressure anyone seriously injured to a hospital.

A control room above the chambers is manned by British and French divers who together monitor those inside using CCTV cameras, and watch gauges that measure the oxygen, carbon dioxide and pressure levels. It takes 28 lorries and seven giant transport planes (four C-17s and three Antonov AN124s) to carry the entire system.
The Affray was the last British submarine to be lost with all hands, off the coast of Alderney in 1951, but there have been many accidents since.

Most of these have been in relatively shallow water,’ says Commander Charlie Neve, the UK authority on submarine escape and rescue.

‘Accidents are most likely to happen in busy shipping lanes when a submarine is on the surface and also at night when the black submarine is difficult to see.
‘There have been plenty of potential disasters. In 2002 Trafalgar hit the seabed off the Isle of Skye, in 2008 Superb struck an underwater pinnacle in the Red Sea, and then last year the new Astute ran aground. There’s also the memory of the Thetis in Liverpool Bay in 1939, which stunned people at the time. The water was not that deep, only about 150ft, and her bow became wedged on the bottom while her stern was sticking up in the air. People couldn’t believe that we couldn’t get the men out – it just seemed unbelievable – but we lost 99 men there.’

Once the Alrosa has surfaced again, some of the submariners come out into the light to gather on the upper deck of the Spanish ship Galicia, to mingle with other nationalities and shake hands in the early evening sun. One Royal Navy medic, who is back from a trip to see how Russian sailors live and work aboard one of their ships, says they were ‘surprisingly welcoming. It was just like one of ours really, with family pictures everywhere and lots of dead pot plants.’
The next time they will all gather will be in three years’ time in the seas around Poland.

‘We all hope never to have to use these skills but it does give confidence that it won’t matter who or where you are, help will be there,’ says Captain Damiar Shaykhutdinov of the Russian navy.
‘Maybe one day Russia can host a similar exercise in our waters.’
Then, for his submarine crew, it’s back down below to return to Sevastopol or wherever the Alrosa is ordered to go, once more unseen and unheard.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Japanese Ice Aquarium Offers Cool Alternative to Normal Aquariums

From Weird Japanese Ice Aquarium Offers Cool Alternative to Normal Aquariums
Aquariums are always a great summer activity, especially when the temperature refuses to stop climbing. You get to walk around room after room of stunning displays of marine life, from lowly starfish to sharks, the garbage pits of the sea. The Japanese have figured out a way to beat the heat without all the necessary upkeep found with traditional aquariums.

The Kori no Suizokukan, or the “ice aquarium,” is located in Kesennuma in northeastern Japan, and features approximately 450 specimens frozen in ice. Bathed in blue light, presumably for atmosphere, the specimens include about 80 different species of marine life, flash frozen as they’re unloaded at Kesennuma’s port on the Pacific Ocean.

The temperature inside is a cool 5 degrees Fahrenheit, making warm jackets and pants a necessity.

Largetooth sawfish to become second elasmobranch to receive Endangered Species Act protections

From Southern Fried Science: Largetooth sawfish to become second elasmobranch to receive Endangered Species Act protections
The Largetooth Sawfish (Pristis perotteti) is about to become the second elasmobranch protected by the Endangered Species Act, a welcome step in the conservation of these animals. In addition to the slow growth, low number of offspring, and relatively late maturity which characterizes most elasmobranchs, another biological feature contributes to sawfish being “among the most endangered fishes in the world,” according to Shark Advocates International President Sonja Fordham. It’s hard to imagine a biological structure that can get more thoroughly entangled in fishing nets than the “saw” on their rostrum, and bycatch is one of the leading causes of population decline in this group of animals. Additionally, the saw used to be a part of the souvenir trade.

Largetooth sawfish used to live in U.S. waters (near Texas), but haven’t been seen since the 1960s. They can now primarily be found in Mexico, Central and South America, and West Africa. Like other sawfish species, the saw is used both to immobilize fish prey and to dig for benthic invertebrate prey. The largest largetooth sawfish on record was over 20 feet in length.

In addition to overexploitation, another important threat facing sawfish is habitat destruction. These animals depend on estuaries, which are decreasing worldwide due to coastal development. All sawfish species except for Pristis microdon are listed under CITES appendix I, essentially banning international trade of these animals.

The Endangered Species Act protections, the result of a petition by WildEarth Guardians, take effect on August 11. The U.S. will also work with nations where these animals are found to encourage similar protections. “By adding largetooth sawfish to the Endangered Species List, the U.S. government is taking an important step toward preventing extinction of this remarkable animal and raising awareness about the plight of all sawfish species,” says Sonja Fordham.

Additionally, Shark Advocates International recommends the following steps:

National protection for all species of sawfish in all range countries
Better monitoring of South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico shrimp fisheries
Fishing measures to minimize sawfish bycatch
Research to inform sawfish conservation, and
Development of an IUCN Shark Specialist Group global strategy for sawfish conservation.
ESA protections are a cause for celebration, but much more needs to be done to save these animals.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Ric O'Barry: 'These Dolphins Are Doomed to a Tragic, Tormented Existence'

Take Ric O'Barry: 'These Dolphins Are Doomed to a Tragic, Tormented Existence'
The world’s preeminent marine mammal specialist, Ric O’Barry, is calling for the immediate release of 25 wild dolphins captured two years ago in the waters off the Solomon Islands and sent to live in captivity in the Philippines.

"These dolphins were taken from their families in the wild using barbaric drive fishing techniques, and have been kept in inadequate holding facilities ever since," said O'Barry. "Two have already died, and the rest are doomed to a tragic, tormented existence."

The bottlenose dolphins, known collectively as the 'Sentosa 25,’ are destined for Resorts World Sentosa (RSW), an oceanarium currently under construction and scheduled to open in Sentosa, Singapore, later this year.

O’Barry, who shot to international fame in 2009 as the star of the Academy award-winning documentary The Cove, has been at the front lines of a major international campaign to pressure RWS to release the dolphins.

In a June 23 message posted on his website, SaveJapanDolphins, O’Barry urged activists to telephone individual high-ranking RWS shareholders.

A petition asking for the immediate release of the dolphins has more than 92,000 signatures.

"Tens of thousand of people, who have taken action on to free the 25 dolphins being held captive for Resords World Sentosa, are part of the growing movement against tourism that capitalizes on the mistreatment and exploitation of these intelligent marine mammals," says Stephanie Feldstein, Animals Editor for, which will make a big media push once the petition reaches 100,000 signatures. "By freeing these dolphins, Resorts World Sentosa has the opportunity to become a leader in compassionate tourism."

Even the trafficker who sold the dolphins to RWS, Chris Porter, has reversed his position, saying “RWS is using the animals primarily to make money while telling the public that its aim is to educate the public on marine conservation.”

O’Barry told The Straits Times in May that the hunt that captured the Sentosa 25 “is not that much different than what happens in Taiji.”

As depicted in The Cove, fishermen in Taiji, Japan, lure between 1,500 and 2,000 dolphins into the shallows of the cove and separate out the ones deemed worthy of selling to an aquarium.

The rest are harpooned and slaughtered, their meat sold in supermarkets.

Purchased by RWS in December 2008 and January 2009, nine of the original 27 dolphins were housed in tiny, rusty sea pens in Langkawi, Malaysia. The other 18 were holed up in Ocean Park Adventure in Subic Bay, Philippines.

Tragedy struck in October 2010. Two of the Langkawi females, one aged five and the other aged 10, died from an acute bacterial infection of melioidosis. Experts say the virus can be transmitted through contact with contaminated soil and surface waters. Several months later, the remaining seven were shipped to their current pen in the Philippines.

In the limitless waters of the open ocean, a free, wild dolphin can live up to 50 years. Highly social creatures, it is not uncommon for dolphin pods to swim up to 100 miles per day hunting for food.

A captive dolphin, on the other hand, often circles its tank without purpose.

Even in the largest facilities, caged dolphins have access to less than 1/10,000 of 1% (0.000001) of the space available to them in their natural environment.

According to Animal Concerns and Research Society (ACRES), a Singapore-based charity organization that launched the Save the World’s Saddest Dolphins campaign, non-wild dolphins faces a life of “boredom, stress, claustrophobia, and frustration.”

In conversations with various media outlets, representatives from RWS have maintained that the company is following international guidelines regarding the care of captured marine mammals.

In addition to traditional dolphin shows, RWS’ plans call for an exhibit that allows humans to swim with dolphins as a form of physical therapy.

Lori Marino, a longtime marine mammal researcher at Emory University, told ACRES, “dolphin-assisted therapy is not a valid treatment for any disorder.”

In a June 25 letter to RWS, O’Barry wrote, “there is absolutely no evidence that swim-with-dolphins programs work.”

In spite of RWS’ steadfast refusal to release the animals, there remains a glimmer of hope.

Two years ago, a planned RWS whale shark exhibit was cancelled in part because of public outcry.

O’Barry has offered to personally rehabilitate and release the Sentosa 25 back into the wild.

The question now becomes, when, if ever, will RWS give him that opportunity?

European Commission apologises for disastrous fishing policy

The Telegraph: European Commission apologises for disastrous fishing policy
Maria Damanaki, the EU's maritime commissioner, admitted that Europe's Common Fishing Policy (CFP) had failed and created a "vicious circle" where overfishing was endangering fish species.

Pledging to scrap an EU quotas system that forces fishermen to throw away or "discard" up to 80 per cent of their catch, Mrs Damanaki apologised for a policy that has pushed Europe's fish stocks to the brink of extinction.

"I have no problem to apologise if something is wrong," she said.

"We cannot afford business as usual. Maybe 10 years ago, the past, it was easier for us, in the European Commission, in governments, in the sector, to close our eyes. We cannot do that anymore because if we do our children will see fish, not on their plates, but only in pictures."

"If it's business as usual, in 10 years only eight out of 136 stocks will be healthy."

Mr Damanaki, 59, a former student militant imprisoned by the Greek dictatorship in 1973, has proposed unprecedented reforms to policies that have led to overfishing of 75 per cent of EU fisheries stocks.

After 28 years of the EU's CFP, 88 per cent of European fish stocks are over-fished, compared to 25 per cent elsewhere in the world and Europe depends on imports for two thirds of its fish.

Her overhaul of Europe's fisheries, controlled centrally in Brussels since 1983, will replace an annual battle between national governments over catch quotas from 2013 with long term 15-year plans based on scientific advice.

She is also demanding an end to "micro-management" of fisheries by the EU, with day to day decision-making devolved to regional bodies across Europe instead of the current system where Brussels officials and Mediterranean countries can interfere in the running of North Sea fishing, and vice versa.

"Even the most detailed technical decisions – like: what mesh size can fishermen use to fish for prawns in the Golf de Gascoigne – have to be taken at the highest level in the European machinery," she complained.

"I want to decentralise."

If her reforms are accepted, with painful reductions to existing fishing fleets, Mrs Damanaki has predicted that fishing stocks will recover by 70 per cent in 10 years, allowing a 17 per cent increase in catch quotas.

Britain will be a key ally in the Greek commissioner's looming battle over who is in control of fisheries with many of her own EU officials, MEPs and countries such as France, Spain, Portugal and Ireland ranged against her.

The Daily Telegraph understands that the Commission's lawyers and the European Parliament are hostile to decentralising, proposals that go against the grain of the Lisbon Treaty which gives the EU even more "exclusive" powers to run fisheries.

"The current CFP has failed. It has not given us healthy fish stocks and it has not delivered a sustainable living for our fishing industry. Only genuine fundamental reform of this broken policy can turn around these failures," said Richard Benyon, the British fisheries minister.

Britain has also promised to lead the EU by implementing unilateral bans on the discards following a celebrity campaign by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, the television chef, against EU rules that force fishermen to throw away 23 per cent of all the fish caught in Europe.

"We need to end the unacceptable practice of throwing dead fish back to the sea. It's a terrible waste of perfectly good food and one of the biggest failings of the CFP," said Mr Benyon.

But environmentalists and conservationists have warned that measures to reduce overfishing must be stronger.

Oceana, a campaigning group, criticised a discard ban that initially applies to less than 26 per cent of fish as "an incomplete work that does not provide the urgently needed strong solutions".

Monday, July 25, 2011

Ship-based system designed to harness energy from waves

From Gizmag: Ship-based system designed to harness energy from waves

Why don't we have stationary commercial fishing platforms that are anchored offshore, where they sweep the waters with their nets, sending the captured fish back to shore through a pipeline? Well, because it's simpler and more efficient to send fishing boats out to catch the fish and bring them in. Thinking along those same lines, the Fraunhofer Center for Manufacturing Innovation has proposed a ship-mounted renewable energy-harvesting system, that would be powered by the ocean's waves.

Traditional wave-power systems, both actual and proposed, are typically permanently located out at sea. Because of this fact, they must be designed to withstand storms. They are also required to send the power that they generate back to shore via underwater cables, which can be very costly to purchase and install. Additionally, because they are permanent structures, they must meet regulatory standards and can't be located anywhere that ships might run into them.

The Fraunhofer system would apparently have none of these problems. It would consist of floating buoys, that would be deployed over the sides of a 50 meter (164 foot)-long ship, on hinged arms. As those buoys proceeded to bob up and down on the waves, the arms to which they were attached would pivot up and down, generating power that would be stored on an onboard battery system. One the ship was ashore, power from those batteries could then be released into the municipal grid system, during hours of peak usage.

Because the system would be mobile (the buoys would be lifted out of the water when the ship was moving), everything could simply be taken to shore when storms were approaching. No cables would be required, and the system could be temporarily parked wherever it didn't pose a hazard and the waves were decent.

The ships, which could be repurposed existing vessels, would have a storage capacity of 20 megawatt-hours. It is estimated that the system could generate electricity at a cost of 15 cents per kilowatt-hour, which is lower than the cost of existing wave power systems, that reportedly range between 30 and 65 cents.

Of course, some energy would be expended to power the ships' engines, or the engines of tug boats that would tow them.

Study Shows Small-Scale Fisheries' Impact On Marine Life; Level Of Turtle 'Bycatch' Surprisingly High

Underwater Study Shows Small-Scale Fisheries' Impact On Marine Life; Level Of Turtle 'Bycatch' Surprisingly High
EXETER, UK -- Small-scale fisheries could pose a more serious threat to marine life than previously thought. Research led by the University of Exeter, published today (19 July) in the British Ecological Society's Journal of Applied Ecology, shows that tens of thousands of turtles from across the Pacific are being captured through the activities of small-scale fisheries.

Focusing on fisheries in Peru, the study suggests that thousands of sea turtles originating from nesting beaches as far away as Australia, Costa Rica, Mexico and the Galapagos, are likely to be captured each year as bycatch while they forage in Peru's waters. 'Bycatch' is the term used to describe fish or other sea animals being caught unintentionally by fisheries and is usually associated with large-scale industrial fishing, such as trawling and longlining.

This study shows the effect of small-scale nets and longlines on marine turtle bycatch. Some are kept for consumption and while the majority are released alive, they are often injured as a result of becoming tangled in fishing gear.

Senior author Dr Brendan Godley of the University of Exeter said: "We have known for a long time that, along with sharks, marine mammals and seabirds, marine turtles often become bycatch as a result large-scale fishing. It is only recently that we have begun to realize that small-scale fisheries may also have a significant impact on marine life. However, we were very surprised when our study revealed just how large an impact small-scale fisheries have on sea turtles."

The Pacific waters around Peru serve as important foraging areas for five species of marine turtle, including loggerhead, green, leatherback, olive ridley and hawksbill turtles. As part of a broad international collaboration to evaluate fisheries impacts, the researchers monitored four key Peruvian fisheries to observe fishing techniques and record the number of turtles caught. The team believes these data are vital for developing effective conservation strategies to reverse the declines of populations of marine turtles and other vulnerable species.

Fishing is a growing industry in Peru and the country is now home to more than 100 ports, nearly 10,000 fishing vessels and 37,000 people working in fisheries. The industry provides an increasingly important role as an employer in Peru. The research team suggests that changes to fishing practices, such as introducing circle hooks and dehookers to line fishing and using net illumination, could help reduce sea turtle bycatch.

University of Exeter Darwin Scholar and lead author Joanna Alfaro said: "Coastal communities in developing countries, such as those I work with in Peru, rely heavily on fishing for their food and livelihoods. In fact, these fisheries are among Peru's main employers. Therefore it is important to find solutions that can ensure the continuation of Peru's fisheries. IMARPE, a Peruvian government research body, will help implement these solutions in Peru's small-scale fisheries. We have already started working with local people in Peru to try and tackle to the problem of turtle bycatch."

"The findings of this study tells us that acting locally to reduce bycatch in small-scale artisanal fisheries will be essential to succeeding globally in the international effort to prevent further declines in marine biodiversity" said Dr Peter Dutton, a leading sea turtle scientist with the US National Marine Fisheries Service who, along with co-author Dr Jeffrey Seminoff, is working together with Peruvian and other international partners to implement recovery plans for endangered sea turtles in the Pacific.

Migaloo closer to Cairns waters

From Migaloo closer to Cairns waters

ALL eyes are on the water with Migaloo the white whale expected to surface off Cairns this week.

The all-white humpback whale was sighted off Hinchinbrook Island near Cardwell by a fisherman on Tuesday.

Quicksilver Cruises spokeswoman Megan Bell said Migaloo was spotted by one of their tourist boats off Low Isles about the same time last year.

"We’ve got all eyes on the water, and cameras at the ready. He’s got to be in the area soon,’’ she said.

The whale has been afforded extra protection from sightseers.

The Queensland Government has now extended the declaration that gives extra protection to special interest whales such as Migaloo until December 31, 2011.

Queensland Environment Minister Vicky Darling said this year, Migaloo was expected to be joined by up to 14,000 whales along Queensland’s coast, a 10 per cent increase on last year.

As a result, encounters with whales are more likely, she said.

The minister warned that vessel captains who manoeuvre their boats too close to whales risked being fined.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Flipping amazing... the moment a humpback whale 'thanks' rescuers who saved it from dying tangled in fishing nets

From Daily Mail, July 18: Flipping amazing... the moment a humpback whale 'thanks' rescuers who saved it from dying tangled in fishing nets

A humpback whale which was freed from almost certain death by three men off the coast of California repaid the favour to its rescuers with a breathtaking display of breaches and dives.

The amazing hour-long performance was caught on camera moments after the creature was cut free from fishing nets.
When the boat came across the whale it was trapped with its tail and flippers hopelessly entangled in the nets.

'I must admit I was a bit scared because I knew the whale was frightened and fatigued but could still kill me with one panicked movement.'
He said the whale's tail was so entangled that it was weighed down by about 15ft.

Michael got back on the boat and tried to cut the net off the whale with a small knife.

The trio managed to free one of the fins but the whale sensed freedom and swam away, pulling the boat with it. But eventually it surfaced again and more net was cut away.
After about an hour of working the whale was totally free. They pulled the remaining fish net onto the boat and watched the whale give a dramatic show of freedom.

For the next hour they watched the whale breach around 40 times and then dive down waving its tail above the water.

Michael said: 'We all believed it was a least a show of pure joy, if not thanks.
'We were all proud and thrilled that we saved this fantastic young life.

'It was an incredible experience that none of us will ever forget.'
On the video a small girl can be heard saying: 'I know what she is doing. She is showing us that she is free.
Her mother replies to her: 'I think she is showing us a thank you dance.'
Michael spends two months every winter photographing whales in the Sea of Cortez.
He is the co-founder of the Great Whale Conservancy (GWC) Blue Whale Protection Program, set up to protect whales along the California coast from ship-strike caused injuries and death.

Geoducks: Monster bivalves worth big bucks

From MSNBC Today News: Geoducks: Monster bivalves worth big bucks
The tribal police are tied up alongside the Ichiban, a broad, aluminum dive boat that bucks against its anchor line 300 yards offshore. Only one of the Ichiban’s two dive lines is running at the moment, trailing off the stern into the granite waters of South Puget Sound. The Ichiban’s captain, Craig Parker, stares intently as the tribal officer finishes his paperwork — capping off an inspection of the Ichiban’s safety procedures and a proficiency test to certify that all members of Parker’s crew are qualified to do their strange work 40 to 50 feet below the surface.

“We did good,” Captain Parker barks over the growl of the compressors after the inspectors have gone. “Everybody passed inspection, and Connie did great.” Connie Whitener, who with her bookish demeanor seems more like a schoolteacher than a certified commercial diver, offers a shy smile, then tugs the collar of her parka against the steady rain. Like everyone on board, Whitener is a member of the 1,000-strong Squaxin Island tribe. It’s been a while since she’s worked a shift as a ducker, and she’d be prohibited from doing so if the inspectors failed her. Duckers dive exclusively for the giant, burrowing clams known as geoducks. According to Indian tribal law, you’re not a ducker if you can’t fill a 50-pound crate of clams in less than 15 minutes. Having filled her crate fast enough, Whitener will now be entitled to an equal share (split seven ways) of the day’s $25,000 harvest.

An adult geoduck (pronounced gooey-duck) averages about three pounds, and while market value fluctuates daily, the overall price for these monstrous bivalves has been climbing steadily for 40 years. This spring geoducks have been going for $10 a pound on the dock at Zittel’s Marina at Johnson Point northeast of Olympia, Wash. Eighteen hours and one international flight later they can go for four times that in the markets of Shenzhen, China, where the clams are a coveted gourmet ingredient known as xiàng bá bàng, or “elephant trunk.” Prized in China for the sweet meat of the siphon, the clam’s tubular organ, and their crisp texture, geoducks are prepared as part of a fondue-like hot pot. In Japan they’re served as sashimi, mirugai, or simply giant clam. Apparently because of their resemblance to a dangling body part belonging to 50 percent of large mammals, geoducks are also reputed to promote male sexual vigor. “There’s no limit to the demand for geoducks from the Asian buyers,” says Casey Bakker, an American who has sold them for 30 years.

Underwater gold rush
For a decade beginning in the early 1980s, the geoduck market was like the ’49 Gold Rush played out on the sandy bottom of the sound. Trade with China was largely unregulated and conducted by a handful of duckers, among them Craig Parker’s father, Glenn, who ran the Ichiban when he wasn’t working as an electrical engineer at Boeing. “When this first started, there were only 10 or 12 [crew members] doing it,” recalls Craig, who crewed the Ichiban under his father. “It was really good money. We were making as much as $20 a pound.” Now that there are 80 crews doing it, he laments, “it’s making a living, nothing more.”

Parker would rather not say how much of a living, but the math isn’t hard to figure — $6 million to $8 million per year shared by the 80 tribe members who dive — and a productive ducker can easily make $75,000 to $100,000 annually. Considering that the median income for Northwest tribes without geoduck divers falls at or near the poverty line, ducking makes a dramatic difference in the lives of the families of the 15 tribes (most with a thousand members, give or take) who engage in the trade. It’s going so well that, inevitably, there’s a fight brewing over who has rights to the geoducks and the unique terms that allow the tribes to duck without bidding on leases or paying income taxes on their harvests.

Geoducks were almost unseen above water until 1960, when a U.S. Navy diver tasked with recovering a wayward torpedo happened upon a prairie of fleshy siphons undulating back and forth on the bottom of Puget Sound. A mature clam lives for about a century (the oldest ever recovered was 146 years old) and passes its time buried three feet beneath the ooze. All that’s visible is the five inches beneath the tip of the siphon as it sways in the current like grass.

When the Washington Natural Resources Dept. assumed responsibility for managing the population in 1970 and sold the harvesting rights to local chowder canneries for 10 cents a pound, hardly anyone noticed. No market for geoduck existed yet. A decade later, as China’s gross domestic product spiked, Asian consumption of the clams jumped to 95 percent of the overall market. Almost overnight, the wholesale price was a staggering $10 per pound.

Puget Sound gold
The Natural Resources Dept. puts the adult population in the state’s waters at 300 million to 400 million. And if you’re searching for geoducks, you needn’t bother looking anywhere else but Puget Sound and the connected Strait of Juan de Fuca, in the waters off Vancouver Island, and Humboldt Bay in Northern California. Their habitat is limited, and that, of course, makes them a great business; one nickname for geoduck is “Puget Sound Gold.”

Because of a constellation of unique circumstances, American Indian duckers, historically barred from participating in any lucrative Northwest fishery (and occasionally beaten by authorities for defying these bans), dominate the trade.

Between 1854 and 1856, Territorial Governor Isaac Stevens negotiated six treaties with the Indians of Western Washington that transferred ownership of all but a few thousand acres of the enormous territory from the Indians to the European settlers. The first, Medicine Creek, was Stevens’s template, written in advance in English and presented to the tribes of what are now Southern Puget Sound. Governor Stevens was known to brag that he could get the Indians to sign their own death warrant if he asked them to — but he had no idea that his treaty contained a time-release poison pill. The crucial clause goes: “The right of taking fish at all usual and accustomed grounds and stations is further secured to said Indians in common with all citizens of the territory.”

For decades, that clause lay dormant as white commercial fishing boomed and the canneries of the Pacific Northwest produced food for a hungry, growing nation. But starting in the 1960s, the tribes of the Pacific Northwest, led largely by the Nisqually, engaged in coordinated acts of civil disobedience known as the Fish Wars to gain access to their treaty rights. Celebrities such as Jane Fonda joined the cause; in 1964, Marlon Brando made headlines after being arrested during a “fish-in.”

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In September 1970, after another fish-in culminated in a violent clash with Tacoma police, the office of the U.S. Attorney General filed suit on behalf of the American Indian tribes against Washington State, arguing that the Stevens Treaties granted equal fishing rights to the sovereign nations. “After all, the language in each treaty expressly protects the rights of the tribes against encroachment by American citizens,” says Greg Guedel, a partner at the Seattle law firm Foster Pepper, who regularly represents a number of tribes in the region. “The stakes were very high. If the suit was successful, tribal treaties would be elevated to the level of state law, possibly beyond that.”

In 1974, Judge George Boldt, a conservative Eisenhower appointee and an avid sport fisherman, heard United States v. Washington State in U.S. District Court in Tacoma. To the surprise of many, Boldt not only sided with the fish warriors but also interpreted the words “in common with” to mean the clause granted equal access and therefore entitled Indians to exactly half of all the harvestable fish in the state — even though the native population only represents 1 percent of the total population. “Boldt was the first victory, but the tribes continued to win appeal after appeal,” says Ron Whitener, Squaxin Island ducker, professor at University of Washington Law School, and Connie Whitener’s nephew, who has represented tribal government in treaty rights defense. “Those early legal victories were important, but because the judicial system is adversarial, it has challenges similar to those of direct action. I think we’re beyond that now. Whether it’s fisheries or land rights, the tribes prefer to enter into mediation with state or competitive interests.”

Commercial duckers work in a dry suit tethered to the dive boat above and trailing a pair of hoses. One feeds air to their bulky masks; the other drives seawater through a PVC nozzle known as a stinger at 20 psi (a bit stronger than a garden hose). Darren Ford, the hardest-living, smash-faced crewman aboard the Ichiban, steps off the stern and descends the 40 or so feet to the sandy bottom off Hunter Point. “It’s pretty boring work actually,” says Captain Parker, watching the bubbles from Ford’s rig break the surface. “Once you get used to working on the moon, or a desert, or wherever, nothing much happens. In the spring the mud sharks will hang around you a bit trying to steal the duck off you before you can put it in the basket. I have had a whale poking around me. That’s pretty spooky. Thing is, if a whale gets tangled in your umbilical, that’ll be it. You’ll be in trouble and the whale might not even know.”

Once on the bottom, Ford, not so much walking as crawling, searches out a bed of clams. Using the stinger, he blasts the sand away from each clam, and then, by hand, uproots it. Geoducks are graded for quality in four categories. The siphons of the most expensive, the Ones, are the color of French vanilla ice cream and completely unblemished. The Fours? Well, Fours are fours. They look like roadkill of the sea.

Clear-cutting geoducks
Once unearthed and pried from its sometimes decades-old burrow, the clam is carefully deposited in a basket that Ford trails from a clip on his belt. Then he crawls the foot or so to the next one. This method is as much a product of the strict regulatory strategy as anything else. Washington is one of the few states that authorizes the Natural Resources Dept. to manage the floor of all its navigable waters. Typically a state’s DNR manages more recognizable natural resources such as forests. As a result geoducks are harvested exactly the same way trees are: clear-cutting. DNR and the state Fish & Wildlife Agency conduct a geoduck census, then designate harvestable tracts located in sandy bottom land, free of eel grass, in between 18 and 80 feet of water. (The 80-foot limit is to remove the possibility of duckers being felled by decompression sickness, better known as the bends.) Once denuded, a geoduck tract takes as long as a forest to recover.

Every year the DNR establishes the Total Allowable Catch (TAC), just 2.7 percent of the harvestable clams — adults weighing 2 pounds or more — located within the 150 acres of designated tracts. There are an estimated 44,000 acres of geoduck beds in Puget Sound, much of this in water deeper than the 80-foot limit. It is this strict regulation and a raft of others that have won geoduck harvesting the “best choice” rating by Seafood Watch, a commercial fisheries watchdog based at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California.

Just like clear-cutting, leases for geoduck tracts are awarded at auction to the highest bidder. Rather, 50 percent of them are. Every year an auction is held for non-Indian (called Stateside) geoduck divers. This process generates about $22 million for the state each year. A tax of $3 per pound of harvested clams is worth an additional $6 million. The other half of the TAC is divided among the 15 treaty tribes. It’s the legacy of the Boldt Decision, and it’s what gives American Indian duckers their competitive advantage. “It really is one of the happy endings in the annals of Native American treaty rights,” says Seattle attorney Guedel, staring south over the sound from a conference room in his 35th-floor office.

No two tribes manage their geoduck fisheries the same way. Some, like the Suquamish, are almost corporate; others, such as the Nisqually, are more communal. Some tribes tax their member’s yields at rates as high as Stateside rates: $3 per pound. For the most part, a tribal ducker gets to take home $9 to $10 of that $10-per-pound price on the dock, which leaves many Stateside duckers livid. After the lease cost and taxes are calculated, a Stateside ducker nets about 35 cents to 40 cents on $10 per pound. A good diver can yield 500 to 1,000 pounds a day. That’s certainly worth gassing the boat up, but obviously a much narrower profit for the same day’s work.

Fishing at the bottom
For all the similarities to logging, a ducker is still fishing. “It all depends on conditions in the water,” says Captain Victor Simmons, a retired steamfitter and a member of the Nisqually whose three daughters, Rachel, Pauline and Stacy, work as his divers. “One day you go down, and you can get done with your allotment in two hours. The next day the same allotment takes five hours. Without a current to sweep away the sand you can’t see more than five inches in front of your face.”

In all, the Ichiban’s Captain Parker has a 20-person crew. He says some are stronger divers than others, but he’s lucky because there’s not a dud in the bunch. He’s got a reliable No. 2 in Dave Whitener, Connie’s brother. The others rotate in on a schedule. “That’s unless there’s a special situation,” says Connie. “My sister got real sick and needed an X-ray, so Craig gave me a bunch of shifts to pay for it.”

“And Dave’s getting married in a few months,” laughs Parker. “So he gets as many shifts as he can handle.”

If the 15 tribes have plans to expand beyond their own operations and organize to control the price of geoduck, nobody is saying a word. If they ever do, they’d do well to consider developing their domestic market.

“Geoduck is very hard to get in America,” says Marco Moreira, the executive chef of New York’s 15 East and Tocqueville restaurants. “When we order from purveyors we order four, knowing we’ll only get two if we’re lucky.” Moreira says he frequently pays $30 to $40 per pound for the bivalves in New York — Shenzhen prices. He swears the clam is worth it. “It does not smell the least bit fishy, it’s rather bright, briny — a clean ocean smell,” Moreira says. “It is too delicate even for citrus, so I don’t ceviche it. I serve it raw with a touch of soy, olive oil, maybe a little wasabi. I love it for its crunchy texture as much as its flavor. Geoduck is my favorite thing.”

How fish are disappearing from British waters – thanks, of course, to the EU

Op ed piece from The Telegraph: How fish are disappearing from British waters – thanks, of course, to the EU
by Norman Tebbit
Events move on in the Murdoch saga so quickly that is hard to keep up to date. There is also the risk that because of its drama it obscures other important events, such as those in Libya, Tunisia and the Middle East – and those in Europe.

Perhaps following the example set by Rupert Murdoch, Maria Damanaki apologised last week for the damage done by the EU fishing policy, declaring that if it was not radically changed “our children will see fish, not on their plates, but only in pictures”.

The policy has brought once common species to the brink of extinction.

The problem is not just one of the policy on discards, bad as that is. Nor is it just a lack of will to reduce the number of fishing vessels and the catch quotas. Nor is it just that Heath gave away control of our fishing areas and allowed them to be looted by our “partners”.

The hard fact is that whilst many people and organisations have an interest in taking fish, no one other than governmental organisations has any obligation to increase the number of fish in the sea. The fishing industry takes no interest in increasing stocks. There are plenty of would-be reapers, but not a sower in sight.

So another EU disaster rolls on. There will be fewer British fishermen, fewer fish in British waters, higher prices for fish and nothing to stop the Spanish and others from ignoring the rules.

Fish, interference in our system of justice, ever-higher demands for money, a smouldering economic crisis – surely it is time for the political establishment to give up its infatuation with the would-be European Empire.

It is no good William Hague trumpeting that the EU will not in future be allowed to acquire new powers without the consent of the British people given in a referendum. It already has the powers it needs to over ride our Parliament and impose its will on us across a huge swathe of our national life. Why are we still unable to make our own fisheries policies in our own waters?

There is now a need not just to prevent the EU from taking new powers over us, but to take back powers from the EU. That cannot be done by fiddling about with the Treaty of Rome. That needs to be torn up and replaced by a new European Treaty of Co-operation. If Our Masters In Brussels are unwilling to do that, we must exercise our sovereign right to leave the organisation which is dragging down even Germany, let alone the weaker economies, and regain the right to govern ourselves.

There were several themes in your comments on my most recent blog post. There were still a few of those who resolutely refuse to read what I write. I suppose monostatos is typical of those, with his demand that I should say whether I am in favour or against phone hacking. Thank you Damocles and all change for giving him the quotes. I hope he read them. He also regarded it, as did poor olcrom, as unfair to mention the media crook and Labour MP, Bob Maxwell. I can’t think why.

Of course the fact that the Daily Mirror pension fund went missing does not excuse the misdeeds and criminality within News International. The point is that such things are not unprecedented.

Then king womble demanded to know if I am in favour of the pursuit of the wicked. Oh, for goodness sake! Read what I wrote.

I am afraid that Robinson F also got himself in a muddle suggesting that my fire has been directed against the Left rather than at Murdoch. Again, I do ask him to re-read what I said. Of course I condemned any and all illegality at News Corp and said those responsible should be brought to justice. Hypocrisy is, however, not a criminal offence, nor is purblind refusal to read or understand what I write, but I do think I should be allowed to condemn it. Whether psmith1 likes it or not I think I am entitled to show up the double standards of some of my critics.

Despite that, I will resist the temptation, held out to me by poliphobic, to comment on the merits of Mr Keith Vaz being involved in an enquiry about veracity, and indeed to comment on the call from Lord Prescott in the Lords on Friday for decency in public life.

As wakeuptheworld observed, I am from a different world and I should ignore the abuse, even from chiefwhippet who thought it unethical that having served in the RAF and RAuxAF I should have become a civil pilot.

I found it hard to follow werdoomed’s point about illegally publishing information held by the government and illegally publishing information about individuals. If the publication is illegal it should be prosecuted. There is a separate discussion to be had about what should be a state secret and the extent to which an individual’s conduct is private or public.

Joss Wynne Evans asked whether, if he broke the promise he had given to observe the Official Secrets Act, he should be prosecuted. That would be a matter to be decided by the authorities. The outcome of any trial would be for the jury.

SocialTrap wrote about information being illegally held by politicans. If it is, it should be stopped and those responsible called to acccount. I suspect however that what he has in mind is that he would like to have information legally withheld.

I noticed that many of you, including overlord and henrietta, are concerned that the BBC operates to a political agenda of its own and that if BSkyB were to be brought down choice would be badly restricted. I agree. What is more, I prefer to watch sport on Sky, not least because the commentators are not only very knowledgeable, but they are always appropriately dressed.

There was a lot of criticism of the way in which Cameron has handled this whole affair. Many posts (including those from mitchelJ, rachel 11, peta, bella, Tom197482, grant69, Bellaghyman, henrietta, jackfrost, Jim Watford and What Now) linked that to his inexperience, not just in politics, but in anything outside the media and the Westminster village. Possibly the funniest post was from Goat Fakir who declared that in contrast MilliEd was experienced. As Delboy 36 asked, ‘At what?’

I should point out to burleyman and ian hardie that at the time of my original remarks about Hari, he had not been condemned from the Left. Since then he has been roundly condemned from all sides.

In the same way, I should, like haymaker, pay tribute to The Guardian for its part in exposing the wrongdoing at NewsCorp. It is a pity that it was not done while Blair or Brown were Prime Minister, but then the Right-wing press failed on that too.

I read Robbie Bett’s post with care. Wilfully or not, I think he still fails to distinguish between my condemnation of two different matters. The first is of course the goings on at NewsCorp, the second is the hypocrisy of the Left. One would never think that not long ago Murdoch and co were all chums with Brown and Blair.

Nor do I think I accused Robbie Bett of using foul language towards me. I am sure that it is unwise to go into a school playground “did, yah boo, didn’t” exchange. Nor will I.

I should also thank Wilfulsprite, frankie, uberwest, lord lucan and others for their entertaining exchanges. Thank you too youtubejohn for the link to that 1988 interview with Michael Aspell. It was nice to see it again.

Finally, as ever, darkseid was full of interesting thoughts, not all of which I could take up. However, I should thank him for his perceptive personal remark, so perceptive that I just wondered if I am right to use the masculine gender in referring to him.

U.S. Joins More Than 50 Nations In Adopting Recommendation To List Vessels Engaged In Illegal Fishing Around The World

Underwater Times: U.S. Joins More Than 50 Nations In Adopting Recommendation To List Vessels Engaged In Illegal Fishing Around The World
SILVER SPRING, Maryland -- The United States joined more than 50 countries Thursday signing a recommendation to regional fishery management organizations (RFMOs) to better track vessels engaged in illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing for tunas, swordfish, sharks and other highly migratory species. Annual global economic losses due to IUU fishing are estimated to be as high as $23 billion.

This action is a first step toward procedures for sharing information about vessels engaged in IUU fishing. Global cooperation to prevent IUU fishing coupled with sound science and effective management are essential to the sustainability of these wide-ranging species that are highly valued in commercial and recreational fisheries.

The recommendation means that the nations that make up the five regional fishery management organizations managing highly migratory species in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian oceans and adjacent seas will share information about IUU vessels. RFMO rules require their member nations to prevent IUU fishing in their regions. Sharing information about IUU vessels across the RFMOs means an IUU vessel previously listed in only one region would have more difficulty avoiding detection by moving to another region.

"Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing undermines the sustainability of fisheries and the ability of fishermen who abide by the rules to make a decent living," said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. "Sharing information on IUU vessels across oceans will strengthen enforcement and prevent legal and sustainable fishing operations from being disadvantaged in the global marketplace."

This outcome was a key goal for the NOAA-led U.S. delegation to the third joint meeting of the world's regional fisheries management organizations that manage tunas and other highly migratory species. This week's meeting, known as Kobe III because it is the third in a series that began in Kobe, Japan in 2007, was hosted by NOAA in La Jolla, Calif.

"I am pleased with the overall level of cooperation among participants. It has helped us make strides to coordinate measures that improve compliance with international fisheries management," said Russell F. Smith, NOAA's deputy assistant secretary for international fisheries, who chaired the meeting. "Now we must focus our efforts on meaningful, binding implementation of these measures within the five tuna regional fisheries management organizations."

Delegates also recommended to RFMOs a set of decision-making principles designed to ensure all management measures are consistent with scientific advice. "The long-term sustainability of tunas and other highly migratory fish stocks depends on international cooperation and a strong commitment to follow the scientific advice when setting quotas and other measures," said Eric Schwaab, assistant NOAA administrator for NOAA's Fisheries Service, who headed the U.S. delegation.

Although recommendations and actions from the Kobe III meeting are not binding, this week's agreements will inform negotiations for binding measures within each of the five regional tuna fishery management organizations.

Delegates from member countries to all five regional tuna fisheries management organizations participated in Kobe III. Representatives from industry, environmental non-governmental organizations, academia, and inter-governmental organizations were observers at the meeting.

The five tuna RFMOs are the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC), International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC), Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) and the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT). The United States is a member of ICCAT, IATTC, WCPFC, and is an observer at IOTC. These organizations are charged with coordinating scientific research and developing conservation and management measures for stocks of tunas and other tuna-like species that are caught in the same fisheries (e.g. swordfish, marlins, sailfish and some sharks.)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Tea party members tackle a new issue: manatees

From Tea party members tackle a new issue: manatees
Everybody knows what the tea party members oppose. High taxes. Big government. Obama's health care plan. High-speed rail.

Now, for at least some local tea party members, there's one more to add: manatee protection.

A Citrus County tea party group has announced that it's fighting new restrictions on boating and other human activities in Kings Bay that have been proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

"We cannot elevate nature above people," explained Edna Mattos, 63, leader of the Citrus County Tea Party Patriots, in an interview. "That's against the Bible and the Bill of Rights."

Federal officials "want to restrict the entire bay," she contended. "They don't want people here."

Last week, Mattos, who says she has 800 members signed up on her group's website, and other tea party members picketed outside a public hearing on the new rules. Because they weren't allowed to bring their signs inside, she said, "my anger took over" and she sent a sharply worded e-mail to thousands of tea party members across Florida, urging them to write to Congress to block the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Then, on Tuesday, Barbara Bartlett, who identified herself as a tea party member, told the Hernando County Commission that the federal wildlife agency had no business sticking its nose into Citrus County. But parts of Kings Bay have been a federal wildlife refuge since 1980.

Tea party members are far from alone in opposing the new rules. The Crystal River City Council and Citrus County Commission contend the new regulations will be bad for the local economy.

Kings Bay, famed as the one place in Florida where humans can swim with and even touch the manatees, is facing a renewed battle over how much protection for manatees is too much. That argument has been going on there since Jacques Cousteau featured Kings Bay's manatees in his 1972 documentary Forgotten Mermaids.

When the first sanctuary rules were put in place in 1980, there were about 100 manatees there. Now federal officials estimate that more than 550 manatees use the bay year-round, and in the winter more than 100,000 people show up in Crystal River to see them.

But of the 16 boat-related deaths that have occurred in Kings Bay, 13 happened in the past decade, and half of those were in the summer.

"I don't know of a more dangerous place for manatees in the summer," said Pat Rose of the Save the Manatee Club.

New rules proposed by the wildlife agency last month would end the controversial summer water sport zone, which allowed fast-moving boats to zoom through Kings Bay.

If approved, all of Kings Bay would become a refuge, and a set of temporary rules posted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this winter would become permanent. The rules enabled the federal agency to establish closed areas or other rules anywhere in the bay, as situations arise.

For instance, federal officials can establish temporary no-entry areas lasting up to two weeks if a cold front hits before the manatee season begins, or after the manatee season has closed, to prevent manatees from being harassed in Kings Bay. They're accepting public comments on the proposal through Aug. 22.

To Mattos, what the agency has proposed will erode private property rights. She predicted they will prevent people who own waterfront land from tying up boats at their docks "because you can't have anything that interferes with the manatee because they'll get trampled on."

Rose called that argument "dead wrong." People whose property sits on a manatee sanctuary — where boat traffic is not allowed — may have to get stickers on their boats allowing them exclusive access, but that's it, he said.

Current regulations have helped boost the manatee population from 100 to 500, so clearly they're sufficient, Mattos said. In fact, in her view, the manatee rules tie in to global development issues.

"We believe that (federal regulators') aim is to control the fish and wildlife, in addition to the use of the land that surrounds this area, and the people that live here and visit. … As most of us know, this all ties in to the United Nations' Agenda 21 and Sustainability."

Agenda 21 is a program, adopted by the U.N. in 1992, to encourage countries around the world to promote only development that does not harm nature. Pundit Glenn Beck and other conservatives have attacked it as an attempt to impose world government's rules on every aspect of American lives. The Citrus County tea party group's website says Agenda 21 is "designed to make humans into livestock."

Mattos said she enjoys showing off the manatees to her grandchildren, but she had little use for the Save the Manatee Club, explaining, "If some of these environmental movements had been around in the days of the dinosaurs, we'd be living in Jurassic Park now."

Greenpeace loses appeal in Japan whale meat case

SKNVibes: Greenpeace loses appeal in Japan whale meat case
(Tokyo, JPN) - A Japanese court on Tuesday rejected an appeal by two Greenpeace activists sentenced to suspended one-year jail terms for stealing a box of whale meat as part of an investigation.

Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki were convicted of theft and trespass last September by the Aomori district court for illegally taking a 23-kilogramme (50-pound) box filled with whale meat in 2008.

The environmental activists contend that they acted in the public interest by exposing embezzlement in the state-funded whaling programme, which Japan says it carries out for scientific research.

They admitted to entering a truck depot and stealing the salted whale meat, which was destined for the home of a whaling crew member, but appealed the sentence against them, saying they were exposing graft.

The Sendai High Court rejected the appeal, an official told AFP.

Ahead of the ruling, Sato said in video footage: "This is a trial concerning people's right to know and freedom of expression. If the people's right to know is upheld, it will be useful for Japan to build a democratic society."

"The government can no longer ignore the embezzlement we exposed," Sato, now the Greenpeace Japan executive director, added in a statement, referring to claims some whalers secretly trade in whale meat.

"It must fully investigate the whale meat scandal, finally end its support for the expensive, unwanted and unneeded whaling programme, and put the money wasted on it into recovering from the March 11 disaster."

Commercial whaling was banned worldwide in 1986, but Japan has since culled hundreds of the ocean mammals annually in the name of science.

Japan has repeatedly clashed with activists over the hunting of both whales and dolphins -- including in annual high-seas confrontations with another environmental group, the US-based Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

In July last year, a Sea Shepherd activist, New Zealander Peter Bethune, received a suspended two-year jail term over clashes with whalers in Antarctic waters in which he scaled a harpoon ship. He was deported after the sentence.

Dolphin hunting, which many Japanese defend as a tradition, has also brought activists to Japan after the Oscar-winning eco-documentary "The Cove" shone a spotlight on the annual slaughter in the coastal town of Taiji.

Australia rejects 'special treatment' for Japanese whalers

Coastal Times: Australia rejects 'special treatment' for Japanese whalers
Environment Minister Tony Burke has bluntly rejected a Japanese demand at the International Whaling commission for greater action against anti-whaling protests in the Antarctic.

Mr Burke told the annual IWC meeting last night that, while Australia wanted full compliance with the laws of safety at sea, Japan was asking for its whalers to be treated as a special case.

"We cannot be in a situation where we are providing a higher level of support for a whaling vessel than we would provide to any other vessel," Mr Burke said. "That is effectively what is being asked."

He told the meeting in the English Channel Island of Jersey that a presentation on the conflict given by Japan was wrong to describe the whaling ships as legitimate research vessels.

"Those particular views are views Australia cannot hold," he said.

The Japanese whaling fleet retreated from the Antarctic last February under pressure from Sea Shepherd activists, for the first time since it began its controversial scientific whaling program.

In the presentation, Japanese commissioner Kenji Kagawa said the conservationists tried to entangle whaling ships propellers with ropes and threw projectiles on to their ships' decks.

Both Australia and the Netherlands came under attack for providing ship registration and port facilities to Sea Shepherd ships. But Mr Burke said the issue of safety at sea should instead go before the International Maritime Organisation.

A long-time Australian observer of IWC meetings, Mick McIntyre of the group Whales Alive, said the Japanese appeared to have stepped up demands for action against Sea Shepherd compared with previous years.

"The Japanese presentation was full of threats that, unless those issue is resolved, Japan's role at the IWC is being questioned," Mr McIntyre told Fairfax Media from Jersey.

"They also say they have arrest warrants out for five Sea Shepherd members."

Sea Shepherd leader Paul Watson, who is also in Jersey, said none of the group had ever been notified of any outstanding arrest warrants by Japan.

"They know how to get in touch with me but I have not heard a thing about this," Mr Watson said.

Godzilla-Maru Deep Sea Drill Pokes The Ocean’s Deepest Holes

From Gizmodo Science: Godzilla-Maru Deep Sea Drill Pokes The Ocean’s Deepest Holes

If Land of the Lost taught me anything, it’s that cool things lurk just below the surface of the earth (and Will Ferrel is the greatest actor of his generation). That’s where the Chikyu Hakken Deep Sea Drill comes in.

The Deep Sea Drilling Vessel D/V Chikyū Hakken (“Earth Discovery” aka “Godzilla-Maru”) is a Japanese scientific drilling ship completed in 2005 for the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program and is operated by the Japanese centre for Deep Earth Research. It’s designed to bore seven kilometers beneath the seabed and into the Earth’s mantle, deeper than any past ocean-drilled hole. Once into the mantle, the Chikyu will study and collect samples from the seismogenic zone, shedding light on the internal structure of the planet and how it affects the formation of Earthquakes, as well as look for the presence of undiscovered life in the Earth’s crust and deep-sea resources.

The Chikyu is 210m long, 38m wide and over 16m high. It weighs in at roughly 57,087 tons and a top speed of 12 knots. Rising 70m above the deck (100m above the water), the amidships derrick has a lifting capacity of 1250 tons and uses a 10,000m drill string – three times longer than the height of Mt Fuji. The Chikyu supports 150 crew members, including 50 science personnel with at-seas crew changes and resupplies handled via helicopter transfer. Since the Chikyu can’t move once it starts drilling, the ship is equipped with an advanced GPS system and six computer-controlled, 3.8m wide azimuth thrusters that work to counteract the effects of tides and currents, keeping the ship directly above the bore site. It also uses a riser system to negate wave action, allowing the rig to drill in waters as deep as 2500m.

The Chikyu drills at a varying rate, depending on how deep its gotten. It cuts through 15m/hr down to 1000m, 8m/hr down to 2000m, but only 3m/hr below that. Once the pipes hit 4000m, it takes approximately 6 hours to fish out and replace a worn drill bit. At those rates, the Chikyu will have to remain stationary in the sea for over a year to reach its 7000m goal.

The actual procedure for getting down there goes a little something like this: The boat positions itself above the bore site using GPS and transponders on the sea floor. The GPS also measures the external forces acting upon the boat and precisely counters them using the azimuth thrusters, preventing it from drifting more than 4.5m away. The drill string is then extended to the sea floor where it starts eating through the Earth’s crust. Every few hundred feet, a 9m rock sample is fished from the line and its chemical properties are analysed. This process continues until the team (hopefully) hits mantle somewhere 7000m down.

The Chikyu was damaged in the Japanese quake earlier this year. Though it was docked at Hachinohe, more than 250km north of Sendai, the rapid change in water level caused it to scrape bottom, snapped off one of the six thrusters, and gashed a 1.5m hole in the hull. Repairs were only recently completed at the end of June.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Free-diving Indian Ocean nomads under threat

From New Scientist: Free-diving Indian Ocean nomads under threat

The Bajau Laut, or Bajo, are marine nomads thought to come from the Philippines, who for centuries have lived out their lives almost entirely at sea. In dugout canoes known as lepa lepa they ply the ocean between Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia, fishing with nets and lines.

They are also expert free divers, as can be seen in this image, taken in the waters off Wakatobi, south Sulawesi.

But their way of life is under threat. The WWF is working with the Wakatobi National Park Authority to prioritise marine conservation in the area. "The WWF is doing excellent work in creating a maritime park," commented Cliff Sather, author of The Bajau Laut. "Otherwise, the environmental situation is a disaster."

Local people are abandoning traditional fishing methods and turning to homemade fertiliser bombs and sodium cyanide to stun the fish. This damages coral reefs and can lead to loss of life.

"We have come across cyanide fishing in the Wakatobi islands, particularly for the grouper trade, and also some bomb fishing," comments Tim Coles of Operation Wallacea, an academic network that backs conservation efforts.

Unfortunately, they are not the only problems facing the reefs, he adds. "You could wipe out cyanide and bomb fishing and the reef fishery in the Wakatobi Islands would continue to collapse because of overfishing by techniques such as fish fences, bubu traps, gill nets, seine nets and so on."

The good news is that the Wakatobi reef fishery has a maximum sustainable yield that, potentially, is significantly higher than current catches. However, it needs time to recover.

To reduce the pressure on this marine ecosystem, The Operation Wallacea Trust, funded by the Darwin Initiative and Operation Wallacea, has been registering the fishers and their boats and plans to buy their fishing licences and compensate them with shares in a factory.

'Sea monster' sightings debated

From Independent.IE: 'Sea monster' sightings debated

Sea monsters like those described in ancient mariners' tales down the ages really could exist, some experts claim.

But they are probably not Jurassic Park-style survivors from the dinosaur age.

Scientists are to discuss the possibility of large undiscovered creatures in the sea at the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).

One of the speakers, science writer and palaeontologist Dr Darren Naish, said: "The huge number of 'sea monster' sightings now on record can't all be explained away as mistakes, sightings of known animals or hoaxes.

"At least some of the better ones, some of them made by trained naturalists and such, probably are descriptions of encounters with real, unknown animals.

"And, because new large marine animals continue to be discovered - various new whale and shark species have been named in recent years - the idea that such species might await discovery is, at the very least, plausible."

Some have suggested that present-day "monsters" might be plesiosaurs, long-necked marine reptiles that lived at the time of dinosaurs, or other survivors from the prehistoric world.

Dr Naish thinks this is unlikely and points out that the "prehistoric survivor paradigm" (PSP) contradicts what is known about the fossil record.

"The idea that these 'sea monsters' might be such things as living plesiosaurs is not a good explanation at all," said Dr Naish, who is affiliated with the University of Portsmouth.

The meeting, entitled "Cryptozoology: Science or Pseudoscience", is being organised by Dr Charles Paxton from the University of St Andrews.

Marine Protected Areas Should Take Into Account Larval Fish Migrations

From Underwater Times: Marine Protected Areas Should Take Into Account Larval Fish Migrations
SHIBUYA-KU, Tokyo -- Networks of biologically-connected marine protected areas need to be carefully planned, taking into account the open ocean migrations of marine fish larvae that take them from one home to another sometimes hundreds of kilometers away.

Research published today in the international journal Oecologia sheds new light on the dispersal of marine fish in their larval stages, important information for the effective design of marine protected areas (MPAs), a widely advocated conservation tool.

Using a novel genetic analysis, researchers at the University of Windsor, Canada, and the United Nations University's Canadian-based Institute for Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH) studied dispersal and connectivity among populations of the bicolor damselfish -- a species common to Caribbean coral reefs and a convenient proxy for many coral reef fish species with similar biology, including a typical 30-day larval stage.

Using samples of newly settled juvenile fish from sites in Belize and Mexico, they traced the origins of hundreds of individual fish larvae back to putative source populations.

"This is the first time that genetic 'assignment tests' have been used to delineate the pattern of connectivity for a marine fish in a region of this size (approximately 6,000 square kilometers)," says lead author Derek Hogan of the University of Windsor, now at University of Wisconsin.

"We found that larvae of this species, on average, traveled 77 km from home in the 30-day larval period," says Dr. Hogan. "Although some fish remained close to home in the same period, some traveled almost 200 km - roughly the distance from New York City to Albany - an impressive feat for a larva about the size of a baby fingernail."

The scientists were surprised to find that patterns of larval dispersal among reefs changed from year to year, driven perhaps by changes in oceanographic currents or meteorological events.

"These results show that it is possible to characterize the pattern of connectivity for selected species, with considerable detail" says co-author Prof. Daniel Heath of the University of Windsor.

"These studies are invaluable for understanding how to design networks of marine protected areas effectively," says Dr. Hogan. "The functioning, and therefore the success, of networks of MPAs designed for conserving species depends fundamentally on our deep understanding of larval migrations."

The authors caution that more work is needed to determine factors that cause larval dispersal to fluctuate from year to year.

"Our results reveal that developing a precise understanding of connectivity patterns is going to be more difficult than previously assumed, because they vary through time," says co-author Peter F. Sale, Assistant Director at UNU-INWEH.

"Long-term, we need to be building models that can simulate connectivity in ways that reproduce these year-to-year changes. Models that can do that will be broadly applicable and powerful management tools."

The study is part of the Coral Reef Targeted Research Project (CRTR), a World Bank and University of Queensland-led project funded by the Global Environment Facility. CRTR involves over 100 investigators from universities and research centers worldwide. Its Connectivity Working Group, led by Dr. Sale and managed by UNU-INWEH, focuses its research activity primarily in the western Caribbean.

These results add to the CRTR Project's impressive total of new science results on selected questions deemed key to improving management of coral reef systems worldwide.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Lost World? Atlantis-Like Landscape Discovered

From Live Science: A Lost World? Atlantis-Like Landscape Discovered
Buried deep beneath the sediment of the North Atlantic Ocean lies an ancient, lost landscape with furrows cut by rivers and peaks that once belonged to mountains. Geologists recently discovered this roughly 56-million-year-old landscape using data gathered for oil companies.

"It looks for all the world like a map of a bit of a country onshore," said Nicky White, the senior researcher. "It is like an ancient fossil landscape preserved 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) beneath the seabed."

So far, the data have revealed a landscape about 3,861 square miles (10,000 square km) west of the Orkney-Shetland Islands that stretched above sea level by almost as much as 0.6 miles (1 km). White and colleagues suspect it is part of a larger region that merged with what is now Scotland and may have extended toward Norway in a hot, prehuman world.

History beneath the seafloor
The discovery emerged from data collected by a seismic contracting company using an advanced echo-sounding technique. High pressured air is released from metal cylinders, producing sound waves that travel to the ocean floor and beneath it, through layers of sediment. Every time these sound waves encounter a change in the material through which they are traveling, say, from mudstone to sandstone, an echo bounces back. Microphones trailing behind the ship on cables record these echoes, and the information they contain can be used to construct three-dimensional images of the sedimentary rock below, explained White, a geologist at the University of Cambridge in Britain.

The team, led by Ross Hartley, a graduate student at the University of Cambridge, found a wrinkly layer 1.2 miles (2 km) beneath the seafloor — evidence of the buried landscape, reminiscent of the mythical lost Atlantis.

The researchers traced eight major rivers, and core samples, taken from the rock beneath the ocean floor, revealed pollen and coal, evidence of land-dwelling life. But above and below these deposits, they found evidence of a marine environment, including tiny fossils, indicating the land rose above the sea and then subsided — "like a terrestrial sandwich with marine bread," White said.

The burning scientific question, according to White, is what made this landscape rise up, then subside within 2.5 million years? "From a geological perspective, that is a very short period of time," he said.

The giant hot ripple
He and colleagues have a theory pointing to an upwelling of material through the Earth's mantle beneath the North Atlantic Ocean called the Icelandic Plume. (The plume is centered under Iceland.)

The plume works like a pipe carrying hot magma from deep within the Earth to right below the surface, where it spreads out like a giant mushroom, according to White. Sometimes the material is unusually hot, and it spreads out in a giant hot ripple.

The researchers believe that such a giant hot ripple pushed the lost landscape above the North Atlantic, then as the ripple passed, the land fell back beneath the ocean.

This theory is supported by other new research showing that the chemical composition of rocks in the V-shaped ridges on the ocean floor around Iceland contains a record of hot magma surges like this one. Although this study, led by Heather Poore, also one of White's students, looked back only about 30 million years, White said he is hopeful ongoing research will pinpoint an older ridge that recorded this particular hot ripple.

Because similar processes have occurred elsewhere on the planet, there are likely many other lost landscapes like this one. Since this study was completed, the researchers have found two more recent, but less spectacular, submerged landscapes above the first one, White said.

Both studies appeared on July 10 in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Scientific Diving: The Benefits of Being There

From Woods Hole Instsitute: Scientific Diving: The Benefits of Being There

[View the referenced videos at the link. Need to be on a computer]
Leah Houghton pulls on her wetsuit, shrugs into her weight belt, tank, and buoyancy vest, then slips over the side of a boat into balmy seas to count baby fish hiding in coral crevices. Erich Horgan hovers 60 feet below the sea surface, scanning the blue space that surrounds him and the four other divers attached to him by 30-foot lines. Pat Lohmann dons a dry suit on a wintry day on Cape Cod—the multiple layers take half an hour to put on—then grabs his tools and splashes into the icy seawater to switch out batteries on underwater instrument.

All three are researchers at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) who were doing scientific scuba diving, a valuable but unheralded means of doing oceanographic research.

Oceanographers use tools and techniques ranging from nets to autonomous robots. Most measure or take samples while scientists stay on board a ship or ashore. Instruments can substitute for people’s hands and eyes, taking measurements more frequently, for longer timespans, in deeper waters and worse conditions than people can. But scuba is the one technique lets the scientists extend their own reach under water.

"The diving program at WHOI provides access to the shallow ocean for people who need to observe or manipulate things, in places where you can't do that with a remote device," said Larry Madin, WHOI director of research and a scientific diver. "It's much more effective to be there in person and be able to see what you're doing."

In the 1950s and 1960s, as scuba diving became popular for recreation, it also became a standard tool for research and equipment support. Scientific diving, though, is not the same as recreational scuba diving, even when it's done in the same places.

"We distinguish scientific diving from both recreational diving on the one hand and commercial diving on the other," said Madin. "Recreational divers go to have a nice time and can go or not as they choose. Commercial divers, on the other hand, work in difficult conditions, have a job to do, and a schedule to meet.

“Somewhere in between is scientific diving: We have a job to do, but it's a job of our own choosing, because it's our own research. We have a certain amount of choice in how we do it, but it's more than just going for fun, and we're probably going to be using more complex or unusual equipment than a recreational diver, doing tasks we need to complete in a certain time length, and being responsible for collecting data and samples, and at the same time, for diving safely and looking after the people with us."

Scientific diving requires specialized training, and the WHOI diving program provides that. WHOI has had just three diving safety officers: David Owen (1953-1980), Terry Rioux (1980-2010), and Edward O'Brien (currently). The program they developed over the years has trained and certified 418 divers in all, preparing them for whatever conditions their research requires and helping them maintain their expertise.

"It isn't leisure," said O'Brien. We have a saying here: The science controls the diving." Divers come to him with a problem, describing what they want to do under water, he said. Then they talk about it and come up with a solution that safely enables the research.

"It's all in the training," he said. "Everything's possible if you take it in small bits and focus on the task."

WHOI belongs to the American Academy of Underwater Sciences (AAUS), the professional organization established by scientific divers from research institutions around the country. AAUS defines what scientific diving consists of, promotes safe procedures and guidelines, and keeps track of safety records. A diver certified at WHOI can travel to another AAUS institution and be accepted as a diver with acknowledgement of their qualifications.

These three narrated audio slideshows profile different kinds of diving that WHOI researchers do in the course of their work.