Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Marine watchdog criticised for keeping North Sea cod on the 'fish to avoid' list

From the Telegrah:  Marine watchdog criticised for keeping North Sea cod on the 'fish to avoid' list
A Scottish fishermen’s leader said consumers should ignore the recommendation and claimed Scottish cod was a "sustainable choice".
According to the Marine Conservation Society, it is still too soon to eat cod in fish suppers - the fish of choice in takeaways south of the border.
The charity said that if British consumers were keen to have cod on their plates, they should look for Marine Stewardship Council-certified fisheries in the north east Arctic, Iceland or Eastern Baltic.
Its influential seafood ratings place different species in different categories - fish to eat, fish to avoid, and fish to think about, meaning fish that should only be eaten occasionally.
It puts North Sea cod in the fish to avoid section, although it accepts that stocks are improving.
Bernadette Clarke, fisheries officer for the group, said: "The efforts of fishers and managers have placed cod in the North Sea on the road to recovery.
"Programmes such as the conservation credits scheme, which rewards fishermen for adopting conservation measures with additional days at sea, together with more effective long-term management plans will, hopefully, see the fishery continue to recover.
"Our advice remains to seek alternatives to North Sea cod. There are more sustainable cod fisheries that we currently rate as fish to eat."
According to the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, the world's oldest intergovernmental science organisation, the breeding stock of cod in the North Sea is three times larger than it was in 2006, and has returned to 1995 levels. However, it still recommends a nine per cent cut in the North Sea cod quota for next year because of the lack of young fish reaching maturity.
One skipper said the MCS rating was "dangerous" for an industry that supported thousands of jobs across the north and north-east of Scotland.
Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation, said the recovery in North Sea cod was in large part down to the "massive" efforts of fishermen and consumers should pay no attention to the advice on cod.
He added: "Whilst we are disappointed the MCS advice on North Sea cod remains unchanged, we are pleased they recognise stock is on the road to recovery and the fishing effort for the species has decreased.
"We firmly believe that North Sea cod is a sustainable choice for the consumer because the scientific advice indicates that stock levels will continue to rise in the future, thanks to the sustainable fishing practices adopted by our fishermen.
"Indeed, the majority of stocks of interest to Scottish fishermen are increasing, and important species such as Scottish haddock, saithe and herring are all independently certified by the Marine Stewardship Council for the responsible manner in which they are harvested.
"Our unequivocal message to the consumer is to eat more Scottish fish, and that includes North Sea cod."
The society also says that monkfish remains a fish to eat only occasionally because stocks are declining, despite cuts in the fishing effort in the North Sea and waters west of Scotland.
According to the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, the world's oldest intergovernmental science organisation, the breeding stock of cod in the North Sea is three times larger than it was in 2006, and has returned to 1995 levels. However, it still recommends a nine per cent cut in the North Sea cod quota for next year because of the lack of young fish reaching maturity.


Monday, January 6, 2014

Santiago: US quibbling over payment of fine


MANILA, Philippines—The United States is delaying payment of the P58.3-million fine for damaging the Tubbataha Reefs by quibbling over procedure, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago said on Sunday.
The US government has failed to compensate the Philippines close to a year after its Navy ship, the USS Guardian, got stuck on an atoll in the Tubbataha Reefs in the Sulu Sea on Jan. 17, 2013.

Santiago, former chair of the Senate foreign relations committee, said she was “disappointed” by the claim of a US official that Washington had not received a formal request for payment from Manila.
Compliance with such a procedure was “irrelevant” since the Philippine government had decided to fine the US government some P58 million for the damage, Santiago said.

“Their contention that payment has not been fully delivered because the Philippines has yet to make a formal request is dilatory,” she said in a phone interview.

“Why quibble with these technicalities since we have brought this case before the tribunal asking for payment? That there has been no full compliance is irrelevant. This is very insignificant and doesn’t detract from the judgment,” she added.

As things stand, the US must “pay” the “piddling” fine, Santiago said. “There has been a judgment. They must pay up.”

Heritage site
Nearly a year after the Guardian ran aground in the protected reefs—a World Heritage site—Philippine environment officials confirmed the US had not paid the fine imposed by the Tubbataha Management Office (TMO).

Filipino activists and environmentalists in April 2013 petitioned the Supreme Court to issue a writ of kalikasan (environment), demanding a stiffer fine than the one assessed.

A US official privy to the matter reasoned out that Manila had not formally requested settlement of damages. Otherwise, Washington was committed to expediting such a request, the official said.

Foreign affairs officials, however, said that talks on compensation were still ongoing between the two countries and that there had been some “progress.”

The Guardian—a 68-meter, 1,389-ton minesweeper—was sailing to Indonesia after a port call at Subic in Zambales when it ran aground in the South Atoll, one of two atolls constituting the reef.

Experts said the damage covered 2,345.67 square meters of the reef, and the law prescribes a fine of $600, or P24,000, for every square meter of damaged reef, plus $600 for every square meter for rehabilitation.

Salvors retrieved the last major section of the minesweeper on March 30 last year. It was cut up into sections to avoid further damaging the reef.

Santiago, who was elected to the International Criminal Court in 2011, said the US was duty bound to pay the fine under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), or the customary law.

She specifically cited Article 192 of Unclos, which provides that states have the obligation to protect and preserve the marine environment.

“The US is bound by this. This provision binds not only those who are parties, it binds all states,” she said.

Even outside of Unclos, Santiago said the protection of the marine environment falls under customary law, which is just as binding on the US and other states.

Customary law
Customary international law refers to international obligations arising from established state practice, as opposed to obligations arising from formal written international treaties, according to the Cornell University Law School website.

Santiago cited Principle 15 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, which states: “In order to protect the environment, the precautionary approach shall be widely applied by states according to their capabilities. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.”

Friday, September 13, 2013

Study Explores Complex Physical Oceanography in East China Sea

From Science Daily:

Sep. 12, 2013 — Just days before a team of researchers from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and National Taiwan University set out to conduct fieldwork in the East China Sea, Typhoon Morakot -- one of the most destructive storms ever to hit Taiwan -- made landfall on the island, causing widespread damage and drastically altering the flow of water along the nearby continental shelf.

The typhoon, which struck in Aug. 2009, caused catastrophic damage in Taiwan, killing several hundred people and dropping up to 2 meters of rain in just 5 days in the mountains.

In their work to understand the strong currents over the continental shelf and slope in the East China Sea, the researchers used four ships for intensive sampling of the continental shelf and slope, and deployed several moorings and conducted high-resolution hydrographic surveys. But the timing of their research also enabled them to examine the impact of freshwater run-off from Typhoon Morakot on the continental shelf northeast of Taiwan, the upwelling and cooling that occurred over the continental shelf after the Typhoon, and the effect of Typhoon Morakot on the biogeochemistry and nutrient dynamics of the continental shelf.

The research has just appeared in a special issue of the Journal of Marine Research.

Although the East China Sea is home to some of the world's most active fisheries and shipping lanes, the basic oceanography of the area is not yet well understood, says WHOI coastal oceanographer Glen Gawarkiewicz, one of the primary investigators for the program. "It's a very difficult place to study -- the currents in the region are extremely powerful, and are constantly shifting and changing, which makes it tough to predict how the ocean will behave there at any given time," he notes. As a result, Gawarkiewicz says existing computer models of the area have a large degree of "uncertainty," or margin of error.

The joint program, called "Quantifying, Predicting, and Exploiting Uncertainty" (QPE), is using data collected in the field to understand how uncertainty in computer models of the ocean near Taiwan changes in time and space. In the process, Gawarkiewicz hopes the QPE team will not only be able to improve the current oceanographic understanding of the East China Sea, but improve methods used to model similar currents around the world. Funding for the program was provided by the U.S. Office of Naval Research.

The main goals of the QPE program are twofold, says Gawarkiewicz. First, it strives to understand how a feature caused by upwelling of cold water, dubbed the "Cold Dome," forms along the continental slope, and attempts to predict when and how it might appear. This phenomenon may play a role in both the formation of new currents and the transport of nutrient-rich water up from the deep ocean, a process essential for the health of marine fisheries. The QPE researchers also set out to examine when and where the Kuroshio Current (a large regional current similar to the Gulf Stream) pushes onto the continental shelf, causing complex currents to appear.

Gawarkiewicz says the shape of the ocean floor in the area may play a role in the complexity of those currents, and may contribute to the high uncertainty that appears in the computer models. As the Kuroshio moves along the continental slope, it passes over a series of three underwater canyons that alter its flow, creating new currents and eddies.

The QPE team conducted their fieldwork in the East China Sea during August and September 2009, using a satellite link to interact remotely with ocean modeler Pierre Lermusiaux at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Each day, Lermusiaux ran computer models of the region, looking for areas of high uncertainty, then directed the team to those spots to collect samples and measure currents. The team immediately sent this new data back to Lermusiaux, who fed it back into the model. In this way, the researchers were able to improve the model's accuracy in real time.

"There's a feedback between the observations and the modeling," Gawarkiewicz notes. "Basically, if you can make good observations in areas of high uncertainty, you can reduce the uncertainty in the future for that area."

In addition to studying the currents of the East China Sea, the researchers also examined the formation of internal waves -- long pulses of energy created either by tidal currents or by water moving past underwater physical barriers, like a ridge or canyon on the ocean floor. "It's similar to wind flowing over a mountain range," says Tim Duda, a WHOI physicist who collaborated on the study. "As water flows over undersea ridges and valleys or is pushed over the continental slope, distinct waves begin to form."

Although these waves form deep underwater, he says, it's still possible to track their location by looking for surface disturbances. "You can actually see where an internal wave is going by looking at the surface of the ocean," says Duda. "The currents of the internal waves push surface waves and ripples together, forming alternating stripes of smooth and rough water that you can pick up either visually or using shipborne radar."

Duda also measured internal waves that passed beneath the ship by using sonar to track the movement of plankton, tiny plants and animals suspended in the water. Since these organisms can't move quickly through the ocean on their own, a passing internal wave would cause them to sink and rise in unison, revealing the wave's shape, size, and direction of travel.

Duda says that the internal waves he observed northeast of Taiwan are extremely powerful, including one wave that measured more than 50 meters (164 feet) tall. Some of these waves, he notes, can form a solitary pulse of energy that travels for miles in deep water before dissipating. Duda dubbed these "transbasin" waves, and thinks they may play a role in mixing layers of water in the ocean, pulling nutrients from the deep up into shallower regions. His paper describing internal wave formation in the East China Sea appears in the special journal issue.

While conducting fieldwork in the region, the QPE team was also given a rare opportunity to measure changes in ocean currents caused by Typhoon Morakot. After the powerful storm passed through the region, the researchers found a strong coastal current formed and began to pull freshwater runoff from Taiwan's coastal region into the ocean hundreds of miles north of the island. "This runoff carried pieces of wood, broken tree trunks, and even farmed freshwater fishes hundreds of miles northeast of Taiwan," says Sen Jan of National Taiwan University, a co-Principal Investigator for QPE. "Those observations are helping provide a new perspective on the disasters that take place after a typhoon." The storm also drove upwelling of deep, cold water onto the continental shelf, which increased the amount of nutrients and phytoplankton after the storm.

"Thanks to global climate change, we're seeing bigger and more powerful storms all over the world," adds Gawarkiewicz, "and understanding exactly how they affect our oceans in the future will be important for shipping, for food production, and for basic science."

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Mystery Over Pristine Shipwrecks, Dead Whales Solved

From Mystery Over Pristine Shipwrecks, Dead Whales Solved
Both shipwrecks and dead whales tend to sink to the seafloor and gradually disappear due to erosion and scavengers. In the Antarctic, however, shipwrecks tend to stay pristine, whereas finding a dead whale carcass is an extraordinarily rare event, found for the first time off Antarctica only this year.
The difference is due to the type of scavengers that thrive in the Southern Ocean, and those that don’t.
PHOTOS: Underwater World Captured
Adrian Glover of The Natural History Museum and his team have discovered two new species of bone-eating Antarctic worms: Osedax antarcticus and Osedax deceptionensis. And unlike Osedax in warmer regions, O. antarcticus at least scavenges in droves.
Glover refers to shipwrecks, other wood waste, and dead whales as “organic falls,” since all tend to be large and very slow to break down. If you put a giant dead whale in your compost bin, you’d probably see and smell it for quite some time. In other parts of the ocean, Osedax worms and flesh-eating fish spend generations munching on a single whale fall. But little is known about what happens in the ocean depths of Antarctica.
Glover explained, “The deep sea that surrounds the Antarctic continent is one of the least explored ecosystems on Earth. The organisms that live there are dependent on a supply of food from the surface, in extreme examples this can be the remains of a whale or piece of wood. These large ‘organic-falls’ are unstudied in Antarctica.”
NEWS: Antarctic’s First-Ever Whale Skeleton Found
For this latest study, the researchers left planks of pine and oak as well as whalebone sitting for more than a year on the seafloor in three different locations along the West Antarctic Peninsula.
After the team recovered their samples, they found through microscopic analysis that the wood was nearly as good as new – albeit water laden. The whalebones from two of the sites, on the other hand, were infested with the newly identified O. antarcticus worms to the point where the bones looked like they still had skin attached, only it was the skin of the worms. The newly identified O. deceptionensis emerged from a hole in the bone from the third site after several days in an aquarium. The findings bring the number of known bone-munching Osedax worms to seven.
The findings are published in the latest Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
Usually wood is attacked by wood-boring bivalves that can penetrate solid materials. Scavengers such as teredinid shipworms and deep-sea xylophagainid clams consume the wood directly, but gain nutrients from their meal only after the fibers are broken down by their own personal bacterial endosymbionts. Other wood-boring bivalves don’t eat the wood directly, but dig into it with attachment bristles. As sometimes the only topographic feature for miles around, shipwrecks can provide an impressive amount of shelter. Until that is the bivalves dig, or with their bacteria eat, the wooden wrecks to the ground.
(Certain species of bacteria can even feast on rusting metal on their own, which is one reason why famous wrecks like the Titanic are in danger of eroding away. The hull of the Titanic, for example, is laden with bacteria-formed “rusticles.”)
NEWS: The Loneliest Whale in the World?
Shipwreck hunters that may have avoided the Southern Ocean in the past because of the danger and difficulty of exploring the region may find their efforts well worth the trouble. Glover and his colleagues suspect that wood-boring species are either absent or in low numbers in this region because the cold water and its current form a barrier that may act to keep the species away.
“It is possible that our experiments were not left long enough, or that the size of the lots of wood, or the presence of whalebone, has inhibited larval development” of wood-boring species, the researchers acknowledge. But similar experiments at other latitudes have shown that wood-boring species are capable of infesting wood at the end of three months, and in some cases, destroying a sample completely within a year, they reported.
But for more than 30 million years, the Antarctic continent was tree free.
“Since humans first started exploring the Antarctic, wood has been deposited on the seafloor in the form of shipwrecks and waste; our data suggest that this anthropogenic wood may be exceptionally well preserved,” the authors wrote.
Stay tuned for possible future discoveries!
An underwater field guide to McMurdo Sound is available at: (Henry Kaiser, National Science Foundation)

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Climate slowdown means extreme rates of warming 'not as likely'

From BBC NEws:  Climate slowdown means extreme rates of warming 'not as likely'

Scientists say the recent downturn in the rate of global warming will lead to lower temperature rises in the short-term.
Since 1998, there has been an unexplained "standstill" in the heating of the Earth's atmosphere.
Writing in Nature Geoscience, the researchers say this will reduce predicted warming in the coming decades.
But long-term, the expected temperature rises will not alter significantly.

Start Quote

The most extreme projections are looking less likely than before”
Dr Alexander Otto University of Oxford
The slowdown in the expected rate of global warming has been studied for several years now. Earlier this year, the UK Met Office lowered their five-year temperature forecast.
But this new paper gives the clearest picture yet of how any slowdown is likely to affect temperatures in both the short-term and long-term.
An international team of researchers looked at how the last decade would impact long-term, equilibrium climate sensitivity and the shorter term climate response.
Transient nature Climate sensitivity looks to see what would happen if we doubled concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere and let the Earth's oceans and ice sheets respond to it over several thousand years.
Transient climate response is much shorter term calculation again based on a doubling of CO2.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported in 2007 that the short-term temperature rise would most likely be 1-3C (1.8-5.4F).
But in this new analysis, by only including the temperatures from the last decade, the projected range would be 0.9-2.0C.
Ice The report suggests that warming in the near term will be less than forecast
"The hottest of the models in the medium-term, they are actually looking less likely or inconsistent with the data from the last decade alone," said Dr Alexander Otto from the University of Oxford.
"The most extreme projections are looking less likely than before."
The authors calculate that over the coming decades global average temperatures will warm about 20% more slowly than expected.
But when it comes to the longer term picture, the authors say their work is consistent with previous estimates. The IPCC said that climate sensitivity was in the range of 2.0-4.5C.
Ocean storage This latest research, including the decade of stalled temperature rises, produces a range of 0.9-5.0C.
"It is a bigger range of uncertainty," said Dr Otto.
"But it still includes the old range. We would all like climate sensitivity to be lower but it isn't."
The researchers say the difference between the lower short-term estimate and the more consistent long-term picture can be explained by the fact that the heat from the last decade has been absorbed into and is being stored by the world's oceans.
Not everyone agrees with this perspective.
Prof Steven Sherwood, from the University of New South Wales, says the conclusion about the oceans needs to be taken with a grain of salt for now.
"There is other research out there pointing out that this storage may be part of a natural cycle that will eventually reverse, either due to El Nino or the so-called Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, and therefore may not imply what the authors are suggesting," he said.
The authors say there are ongoing uncertainties surrounding the role of aerosols in the atmosphere and around the issue of clouds.
"We would expect a single decade to jump around a bit but the overall trend is independent of it, and people should be exactly as concerned as before about what climate change is doing," said Dr Otto.
Is there any succour in these findings for climate sceptics who say the slowdown over the past 14 years means the global warming is not real?
"None. No comfort whatsoever," he said


Friday, March 29, 2013

Take your blood pressure medication!

Spent most of yesterday in the hospital, where my mother was admitted. Her doctor had changed her blood pressure medication a couple of weeks ago, it wasn't doing the job. Unfortunately her doctor was out of town and a home therapist said we should take her to the Emergency Room.

Bad idea, as far as I'm concerned. Put her back on her old medication which was working, just causing her to cough.

Instead we brought her to the emergency room, and since she's old and deaf, this got her more stressed out and scared than ever, because they were all gathered around her shouting questions and wanting to run tests and I'm sure she thought she was dying or something, which sent her blood pressure even higher.

She spent the night there, and is still in today for more tests, which I don't think she needs but I guess since they've got her in there they want to get their money's worth out of our insurance...  she's in a private room which must be costing a fortune....

The reason for my headline... she was about 40 when she was first diagnosed with high blood pressure...took pills for a couple of days but didn't like how they made her she stopped taking them and tried to do the "natural remedy" thing.

Result, 20 years later she had congestive heart failure, and now instead of taking 1 pill a day she has to take 4. And has to go into the hospital periodically on occasions like these.

Moral of the story - go get your blood pressure checked, and if you have high blood pressure make sure you take your meds, otherwise believe me you'll wish you had, when it is too late...

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Tiny plants devour reefs in warming, acidic oceans

The University of Queensland:  Tiny plants devour reefs in warming, acidic oceans

A world-first scientific study has found that the world's coral reefs are being weakened by microscopic borers and will erode more rapidly as the oceans warm and acidify.

This phenomenon, combined with a slower growth of coral reefs due to ocean acidification, may make reefs more vulnerable to storms and cyclones, according to Ms Catalina Reyes of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (CoECRS) and The University of Queensland (UQ).

“So fish, turtles, sharks, lobsters and other reef organisms may lose their homes, threatening reef biodiversity and the livelihoods of tens of millions of people,” Ms Reyes said.

Ms Reyes explained that corals use calcium carbonate, or limestone, to build the reef structure.

As the coral accumulates, carbonate and extend their skeleton, the old, dead parts are eroded by waves, currents, fishes, sponges and by tiny plants that live inside the reef.

“There is a fine balance between accumulating and losing carbonate, and healthy reefs are the ones that gain more than they lose,” Ms Reyes said.

“Anything that disrupts this balance puts coral reefs in danger.”

Coral reefs are already threatened by ocean acidification caused by human carbon emissions dissolving into the oceans.

Associate Professor Sophie Dove of CoECRS and UQ said coral reefs were already threatened by ocean acidification caused by human carbon emissions dissolving into the oceans.

This process reduced the amount of carbonate in the seawater, which meant the corals build the reef at a slower pace, she said.CoECRS researchers found that the lack of carbonate to build coral reefs wasn't the only challenge that these ecosystems faced.

In this latest study, CoECRS researchers found that the lack of carbonate to build coral reefs isn't the only challenge that these ecosystems face.

“Our research shows that when seawater is both acidic and warm – which is predicted to happen under future climate scenarios – coral reefs could be made more fragile by microborers such as algae, blue-green algae and fungi that inhabit reefs and bore tiny holes in it that undermine the strength of the coral skeleton,” Associate Professor Dove said.

To explore how the combination of a warm and acidic ocean affects the activity of microborers, the researchers exposed different types of coral skeletons in tanks containing seawater, which simulated two future climate scenarios.

Ms Reyes said the first scenario was ‘business as usual' where nothing was done by humanity to decrease CO2 emissions.

“In this case, the rate of erosion by the microborers of the coral skeletons almost doubled compared to the present day,” she said.

“In the second scenario, in which CO2 was above current levels but less than the ‘business as usual' scenario, the rate of erosion was 35 percent.

“We found that microborers were more abundant under both predicted scenarios, so it is possible that acidic and warm sea water will stimulate their growth, leading to coral skeletons dissolving faster."

Ms Reyes said the most abundant type of algae identified in the study was also the world's most common photosynthetic microborer, capturing sunlight to fuel its activities.

It currently inhabits 85 percent of the world's corals and has an extraordinary ability to cope with low light conditions, allowing it to penetrate deep into coral skeletons.

Dr Dove said in the future corals would have less material with which to build their reefs, and the old, dead parts that support them would erode much faster.

“If we think of the reef as a scaffold, it's now being taken apart faster than it can re-build, which means that it's at a higher risk of collapsing,” she said.

“Even if there are ‘super corals' that do well in an acidic ocean, this study shows that we mustn't underestimate how much climate change can affect other important reef processes.”

The study Ocean acidification and warming scenarios increase microbioerosion of coral skeletons by Catalina Reyes-Nivia, Guillermo Diaz-Pulido, David Kline, Ove-Hoegh-Guldbeg and Sophie Dove has been published in the latest issue of Global Change Biology. View the publication here

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