Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Never get involved in a land war in Asia

and never agree to transcribe 20 hours of meetings from an Australian business meeting.

That's what I've been doing for the last 4 days...utter nightmare. Could NOT understand their accents. Making it worse were the bad audio levels and the fact that a lot of the people preesnt insisted on talking over each other from all around the room except in front of the microphone... I will never transcribe ANYTHING every again.

Anyway, so sorry to be MIA from my blogs.

Monday, February 18, 2013

‘US to pay reef damages’

From Manila Standard Today: ‘US to pay reef damages’

US Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States government is ready to “fully and appropriately provide compensation for all damages” caused by the grounding on the Tubbataha reef, said Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario.
Base from their phone conversation Wednesday night, Del Rosario said Kerry assured full cooperation in salvaging the USS Guardian which ran aground in January.
“One of the first things we discussed was the USS Guardian incident. We had a very frank discussion between friends. We both agreed on the importance of removing the USS Guardian from the reef without causing further damage,” Del Rosario said in a statement released Thursday.
“Secretary Kerry reiterated the deep regret of the US government over the incident and its readiness to provide full and appropriate compensation,” he added.
“Secretary Kerry said that he himself wants to know and get to the bottom of what truly happened. In this context he said that he wants to be a full partner of the Philippines in finding out what happened and that the U.S. government will cooperate fully with the investigation that the Philippines is conducting.”
Del Rosario said Kerry is also committed to share the US Navy’s findings and consult the Philippines and its expert before finalizing its report.
“We both agreed that it is important to understand what happened and to take the necessary navigational safety measures to protect the reef and that would prevent other ships from grounding there,” he said.
“I would like to assure the public that every effort will be made to obtain proper compensation. We also are of the view that a long term commitment of resources by the United States to the future well being of the reef is important, on top of the issue of compensation.”

Sunday, February 17, 2013

New Zealand dolphin faces extinction, group warns

From Global Post: New Zealand dolphin faces extinction, group warns

Scientists have urged New Zealand to take immediate action to protect the critically endangered Maui's dolphin, amid warnings the marine mammal could become extinct by 2030.
The animal, the world's smallest dolphin sub-species, is only found in waters off the North Island's west coast and experts estimate the adult population has dwindled to just 55, the US-based Society for Marine Mammalogy (SSM) said.
In a letter to New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, it said scientific data showed up to five dolphins a year died after becoming entangled in fishing nets, meaning urgent action was needed for it to survive.
While the findings are disputed by commercial fishers, the SSM said the evidence was "exceptionally strong" and called for a ban on trawling and a fishing method known as gillnetting in its marine habitat.
"In a situation such as this one, involving a critically endangered sub-species, delay to resolve uncertainty could have dire, irrevocable results," SSM president Helene Marsh said in the letter dated February 11, seen Thursday.
"I encourage you to act quickly and decisively to provide the leadership in marine conservation that the world expects of your country."
The SSM, which represents 2,000 scientists from 60 countries, said the population of Maui's dolphin was so small that allowing any of them to be die as "bycatch" to the fishing industry made it unsustainable.
Conservation group NABU International said the figures showed the Maui's dolphin was set to become extinct by 2030 if the government took no action.
"The scientific evidence for an immediate zero tolerance approach to Maui's dolphin mortality is overwhelming," NABU conservation expert Barbara Maas said.
"New Zealand is becoming embarrassingly isolated amidst growing international interest and concern."
In July last year, the International Whaling Commission also called for New Zealand to extend maritime protection zones for the dolphin.
The government began reviewing protection measures for the dolphin last year but is yet to make an announcement about whether they will be strengthened.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Pacific bluefin tuna population is 'fraction of its 1950s size'

From SciDevNet:  Pacific bluefin tuna population is 'fraction of its 1950s size'

[PALAU] The population of the highly-prized Pacific bluefin tuna has dropped by more than 96 per cent from its estimated level in the 1950s before large scale commercial fishing began and it is unlikely to recover if fishing continues at its current intensity, according to a stock assessment.

The summary of the latest stock assessment report of the fish was released by the International Scientific Community (ISC) for Tuna and Tuna-like Species in the North Pacific Ocean on early this month (8 January).
The study analysed catch data from 1952 to 2011, using these to model the size of the current population and how it has changed over time.

Based on the estimates, the Pacific bluefin tuna population is in serious decline because of overfishing and its population is just a fraction of what it used to be. The assessment warns that the population could crash if commercial fishing is not drastically reduced and points out that fishers are now catching mostly juvenile fish.
Gabriel Vianna, a marine researcher at the Australian Institute of Marine Science, says that the practice of excessive fishing and catching juveniles is unsustainable and that there is in an urgent need for better management. 

But Sarah Shoffler, a fishery biologist from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), United States, says that there is no solid evidence that there has been a sharp recent fall in the number of Pacific bluefin tuna that survive to maturity.

"While we are very concerned about the population, the NOAA fisheries scientists who worked on the assessment did not determine if the population is near extinction," Shoffler tells SciDev.Net.

But she says it is clear that the total weight of fish that are at a reproductive age is at or near its lowest level.
Pacific bluefin adults reproduce in only two spawning grounds, located off the coast of Japan.

Shoffler says that proper international management should allow the species to recover from its current low level.

US-based campaign organisation the Pew Environment Group says that measures to ensure this happens must include science-based catch limits and major cuts in juvenile bluefin catches by implementing minimum size limits across the Pacific Ocean and banning fishing in the spawning grounds. Robust monitoring and enforcement measures must also be implemented, it says.

At the last meeting of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission in December, member countries were unable to reach a consensus to limit overall catches of tuna species, particularly the big eye, and failed to ensure the long-term sustainability of the fishery.

Meanwhile, at its June meeting, sister organisation the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission adopted the first catch limits for Pacific bluefin tuna in the eastern Pacific. This conservation measure led to the fishery's early shutdown when the limit was exceeded in August. 

The full assessment report will be released in late February.


Saturday, February 2, 2013

Scientists watch a fish think as it swims freely about

From NBC News Science:  Scientists watch a fish think as it swims freely about

For the first time, scientists have imaged the brain activity of a fish watching its prey.
Observing neural signals in real time offers an important glimpse into how brains perceive the outside world. In the new study, researchers developed a way to follow these signals in the brain of a zebrafish larva, using a sensitive fluorescent marker.

"It's a breakthrough," molecular and cell biologist Florian Engert of Harvard University, who was not involved in the study, told LiveScience. "No one else can look at neuronal activity with fluorescence microscopy in a freely swimming zebrafish larva" with such good resolution.

See-through heads Zebrafish are widely used to study genetics and development in vertebrates. Their larvae are ideal for neuroimaging because they have translucent heads, and scientists can literally peer into their brains.
To see what was actually going on in those fish noggins, researchers developed a genetically engineered protein, called GCaMP7a, that lights up under a fluorescent microscope when neurons, or brain cells, fire. Transgenic zebrafish were bred to express this protein in a brain region called the optic tectum, which controls the movement of the eye when the animal sees something move in its environment.

In one experiment, the scientists imaged the brain of a transgenic fish larva as it watched a dot on a screen blinking on and off or moving back and forth. Under the microscope, signals flashed through the fish's brain, mirroring the movement of the dot.

Next, a live paramecium — zebrafish prey — was placed in sight of an immobilized fish. Again, neural signals could be seen zipping around the fish's brain, tracking the paramecium's movement. No signals were detected when the paramecium was motionless, however.
Lastly, a paramecium was placed in a dish with a zebrafish larva that was allowed to swim freely, hunting its prey. The researchers mapped the fish's brain activity as it zeroed in on the paramecium and swam toward it.

Understanding brain behavior The new approach will improve scientists' understanding of brain circuits involved in predatory behavior, the researchers report online Thursday in the journal Current Biology. The system could be used to image other brain areas, too, allowing scientists to observe neurons involved in behavior and locomotion.

Previously, scientists had been able to image single-cell brain activity in zebrafish, but this study was the first to do it in a freely swimming fish perceiving a natural object. "The technology for studying zebrafish is moving fast," said neuroscientist Joseph Fetcho in an email to LiveScience. Fetcho did some of the earlier imaging work but was not involved in the new study.

The closer you can get to revealing the patterns of neuronal activity in a freely behaving animal, the more likely the patterns will represent those that drive natural behavior, Fetcho said.