Monday, July 17, 2006

China Launches Biggest-Ever Oceanic Environment Survey

Beijing, China (Jul 16, 2006 17:33 EST) China, hungry for oil and minerals, has launched its fourth and biggest-ever oceanic environment survey to probe the conditions of its vast maritime space.

The survey will last two years and cover 1.02 million square kilometres of sea area off China's coasts.

Scientists will record data on water depths, waves, water levels, ocean currents, water temperatures and colours, mineral contents and plankton in four seasons.

The research findings are expected to guide development of the maritime economy, tapping of oceanic resources, maritime disaster relief and prevention, and oceanic environmental protection.

The programme is part of a comprehensive survey and evaluation project on China's inshore ocean launched in 2003. There have been three ocean surveys since the People's Republic of China was founded in 1949, Xinhua news agency reported.

The first summer phase of the programme is expected to take 1.5 months and involve over 3,000 surveyors who will begin research from the northeast coast down to the south simultaneously, vice director of the National Bureau of Oceanography, Lei Bo said.

The eastern part of the Chinese mainland is flanked from north to south by the Bohai Sea, the Yellow Sea, the East China Sea and the South China Sea, all merging with the Pacific Ocean. Of these, the South China Sea is a deep-sea basin, and the rest are on the shallow continental shelf. The eastern coast of Taiwan island is bounded directly by the pacific.

Maine Fisher Catches 'Half-Baked' Lobster; 'I Thought Someone was Playing a Joke on Me'

Bar Harbor, Maine (Jul 14, 2006 19:47 EST) An eastern Maine lobsterman caught a lobster this week that looks like it's half-cooked.

The lobster caught by Alan Robinson in Dyer's Bay that is a typical mottled green on one side; the other side is a shade of orange that looks cooked.

Robinson, of Steuben, donated the lobster to the Mount Desert Oceanarium. Staff members say the odds or finding a half-and-half lobster are 1 in 50 million to 100 million. By comparison, the odds of finding a blue lobster are about 1 in a million.

Robinson, who has been fishing for more than 20 years, said he didn't know what to think when he spotted the odd creature in his trap.

"I thought somebody was playing a joke on me," Robinson said. "Once I saw what it was ... it was worth seeing."

Bette Spurling, who works at the oceanarium, said lobster shells are usually a blend of the three primary colors: red, yellow and blue. Those colors mix to form the greenish-brown color of most lobsters. This lobster, though, has no blue in half of its shell, she said.

Bernard Arseneau, a former manager at the oceanarium's lobster hatchery, said lobsters also have a growth pattern in which the two sides develop independently of each other.

The oceanarium has received only three two-toned lobsters in its 35 years of existence, staff members said.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Pearl Jam Offsets Climate Footprint of 2006 World Tour


LOS ANGELES, California, July 10, 2006 (ENS) - Tonight Pearl Jam is onstage at The Forum in the midst of a 69 date world tour that opened April 20 in London, England and will close November 25 in Perth, Australia.

The band has decided to offset emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) released on the tour - from the trucks, buses, airplane travel, hotel rooms, concerts venues and fans driving to and from their concerts - by providing funding to nine nonprofit organizations that help, in various ways, to reduce global warming.

Calling the initiative their "Carbon Portfolio," the band announced today that they are contributing a total of $100,000 to the American Solar Energy Society, the Bonneville Environmental Foundation, the Cascade Land Conservancy, Conservation International, EarthCorps, Green Empowerment, Honor the Earth, IslandWood and the Washington Clean Energy Initiative.

The negative impacts associated with rising global temperatures as a result of increased CO2 emissions include variable and volatile weather, increased diseases, the death of coral reefs and the melting of the polar ice caps.

One of the band's Carbon Portfolio partners is the Washington, DC based nonprofit Conservation International.

To offset emissions associated with the band’s tour, Conservation International, in collaboration with two Ecuadorian organizations, the Jatun Sacha and El Kaim├ín de la Lagua de Clube foundations, is working to restore up to 30 hectares (74 acres) of degraded tropical forest in northwestern Ecuador.

The restoration is taking place in the Mache-Chindul Ecological Reserve, a 300,000 acre reserve established by Ecuador’s Ministry of the Environment and contains the Laguna de Cube, which was declared a “wetland of international importance.”

Conservation International’s restoration efforts add another layer of protection to this critical remnant of Ecuador’s coastal rainforest that is home to a number of unique plant and animal species, including the jaguar, the long wattled umbrella bird, the giant anteater and the threatened mantled Howler monkey.

As this regenerated forest grows, it will absorb more than 6,000 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) over the next 30 years, provide habitat protection for endangered plant and animal species and direct support for local communities.

"We selected Conservation International for our Portfolio with an eye towards supporting local, regional, national and international strategies that positively affect climate, environment and local communities,” said Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard.

“We believe in businesses that proactively take the lead on the issues of environment and clean energy, rather than waiting for our government to identify solutions for us," Gossard said. "By identifying and supporting a diverse group of organizations and strategies, we hope to create new models for businesses like ours who are looking to invest in the future health of our planet and its delicate ecosphere."

“Biodiversity loss is literally fueling climate change and, in turn, climate change is anticipated to accelerate biodiversity loss and species extinctions throughout this century,” said Michael Totten, senior director of climate and water at Conservation International. “Recognizing the intimate interconnection between these two global problems and designing resilient actions that address both simultaneously is now an imperative, not an option.”

The 2006 tour represents the second time that Pearl Jam and Conservation International (CI) have worked together on the issue of climate change. Pearl Jam offset the 5,700 tons of CO2 emissions generated by their 2003 concert tour through an investment in CI’s Conservation Carbon program. This funding supported a joint project between CI and the Wildlife Conservation Society to protect rain forests in northeastern Madagascar, the island country located off the coast of southeastern Africa.

Pearl Jam also is asking fans to get involved by helping to reduce their own carbon footprint. Fans can calculate how much carbon their daily activities generate using a carbon calculator found on Conservation International’s website at Once fans have calculated their carbon footprint they will be presented with options to offset that impact.

The Bonneville Environmental Foundation (BEF), based in Portland, Oregon, is another Pearl Jam "Carbon Portfolio" partner announced today. "We looked for partners to put our contributions towards the greatest use in combating global climate change," said Gossard. "BEF was an obvious choice when we considered the renewable energy component."

Through revenues generated from the sales of green power products, BEF funds projects that restore damaged watersheds and support new renewable energy projects from solar, wind and biomass.

BEF's Green Tag programs enable individuals, businesses, and other organizations to offset their carbon footprint by supporting renewable energy projects that deliver solar and wind power into the nation's power grid.

BEF pioneered the sale of Green Tags in 2000 and has helped establish national standards for certification and trading.

Pearl Jam has been a supporter of BEF since the 2004 Vote for Change tour, when Gossard organized some of the participating bands to fund the installation of small-scale renewable energy projects in many of the states where it toured. In addition to Pearl Jam and Gossard, participants included Bonnie Raitt, The Dave Matthews Band, and REM.

BEF's role was to identify the Vote for Change beneficiary projects, and to manage the ongoing installation efforts.

"With the Vote for Change initiative, Pearl Jam helped BEF expand the scope of its renewable energy programs to reach new audiences in the Midwest, Southeast, and Eastern states," said Tom Starrs, vice president of marketing and sales and chief operating officer of Bonneville Environmental Foundation.

"With the Carbon Portfolio Strategy, Pearl Jam is helping BEF reach an even broader audience with the message that it's easy to take action today to make our energy supply cleaner, safer, and more secure," said Starrs. "We are very grateful for the band's continuing support."

BEF will use the contributions from Pearl Jam's Carbon 2006 Portfolio Strategy to support its renewable energy initiatives, including its Green Tag programs.

The Pearl Jam award to the American Solar Energy Society came as the society holds its annual conference, SOLAR 2006, in Denver, Colorado.

Time is rapidly running out to avert the catastrophic effects of continued global warming, two internationally known climate scientists told attendees at SOLAR 2006 Monday morning.

The threat of global warming is “a clear and present danger,’’ because of the continued growth in emissions of greenhouse gases, said Dr. James Hansen, who heads the NASA Institute for Space Studies. While there is still time to act, “the window of opportunity is very rapidly closing,’’ told the 1,800 delegates at the conference.

Hansen told delegates that business as usual – annual increases of two percent in carbon dioxide emissions - will lead to global warming of 3 degrees Celsuis by the end of the century, according to scientific models.

That would lead to extinctions of roughly half the species of animals and plants, along with oceans rising 80 feet higher than they are now. "We would end up with a system out of our control,’’ Hansen said, including all cities on the east coast of the United States. under water. Also submerged would be places in China inhabited by 200 million people, areas of India where 150 million people live and virtually the entire nation of Bangladesh."

To avoid such a scenario and keep warming to one degree Celsius in this century, major changes are needed quickly, Hansen said. Carbon dioxide emissions need to flatten out and begin to decline. He suggested phasing out coal emissions by 2012 in developed nations and by 2022 in developing countries – capturing and sequestering carbon pollution – and then phasing out old coal plants by 2025.

Dr. Warren Washington, a climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, showed video displays of climate models dramatizing melting Arctic ice and more intense storms. Global warming will lead to more severe heat waves in the southern and western regions of North America as well as in Western Europe and the Mediterranean, he said.

But like Hansen, Washington held out some hope. “We need to have the snow and ice stop melting and grow, which means drastically lowering greenhouse gas concentrations," he said. "Solar energy could be a major contributor to that objective."

Hansen told delegates, "The public must get informed and get angry."

With its Carbon Portfolio initiative, Pearl Jam is informing its fans and directing their anger towards positive change.

Hurricane Experts Wary of Huge Mass of Warm Water in the Atlantic

Halifax, Nova Scotia (Jul 12, 2006 13:28 EST) A large section of the North Atlantic that's about three degrees above normal has made weather forecasters wary this hurricane season.

A mild winter and prevailing southerly winds have had an impact on an area about 1,000 kilometres by 1,000 kilometres, said officials with the Canadian Hurricane Centre in Dartmouth, N.S.

The area stretches from the coast of Maine to the Grand Banks off Newfoundland.

"The possible implications of those warmer-than-normal waters would be their inability to weaken tropical storms if they should move into our part of the world," meteorologist Chris Fogarty said yesterday.

Hurricanes tend to lose power as they pass over cooler water.

A few degrees may not seem like much, but it has the potential to strengthen a storm's capacity for damage by as much as 50%.

When hurricane Juan hit Nova Scotia in 2003 it was moving over water three to four degrees above normal.

"That storm didn't weaken quite as quickly as it would normally, and that was due partly to warmer waters at the time," said Fogarty. "We're seeing a similar pattern with water temperatures this year."

The moistened atmosphere could also lead to more thunderstorms this hurricane season, which runs from June until November.

While it's too early to predict a major storm will hit the region this year, Fogarty is warning residents to always be prepared.

"The bottom line is that Atlantic Canadians should be aware that tropical storms affect us."

Lax regulation blamed as fish stocks lag

The United States has failed to rebuild its depleted fish stocks because federal regulators over the past decade have continued to allow overfishing, and New England fisheries have fared the worst, according to a University of New Hampshire study to be published next month.

Of the nation's 67 fish stocks identified in 1996 as "overfished," only three have been rebuilt.

Of the eight fishery management regions, New England is at the bottom of the list for recovering ailing fish stocks, according to Andrew Rosenberg, the report's chief author and a professor of natural resources policy and management at the University of New Hampshire.

New England has the most stocks at unhealthy levels, with 18 stocks under rebuilding plans. Only two - haddock and sea scallops - have reached healthy levels or are no longer over- exploited, according to the study.

How convenient that a non-federally funded entity finds results of overfishing drastically different to those reported by NOAA just a few weeks ago (if you scroll down to the bottom of this link, you can see the article)... Read the rest of the new study article here.

Fossils show how fish grew legs

Newly uncovered fossilised fish trails dating back 400 million years may show how life-forms moved from water to land, according to Bristol researchers.

The trails were discovered by a team at the University of the West of England in red sandstone in a Welsh quarry.

Dr Susan Marriott thinks the fossilised trails in what was once river sediment could explain the mystery.

A film has been made showing how the fish used pectoral fins to rest on, which may have developed into limbs.

Evolution of life

The site of the sandstone quarry in the Brecon Beacons was once a river, with a very different landscape from that of today with semi-desert around a wide, shallow water course instead of moors and hills, according to the research team.

The film, called Follow that Fish!, shows the researchers investigating the fossils in the sandstone.

For the film, animators from UWE's School of Animation drew moving sequences, based on the trails left behind and preserved in stone, to show how these early vertebrates may have behaved.

"One of the most important things at this time in geological history was the emergence of life from a watery environment into a land environment," said Dr Susan Marriott.

"We have found fossils and the traces of the animals that made them, from which we can make inferences about the environment the animals lived in and link it to the evolution of life on land."

From myth to real monsters ... the rogue waves


The storm was nothing special. Its waves rocked the Norwegian Dawn just enough so that bartenders on the cruise ship turned to the usual palliative -- free drinks.

Then, off the coast of Georgia, early on Saturday, April 16, 2005, a giant, seven-story wave appeared out of nowhere. It crashed into the bow, sent deck chairs flying, smashed windows, raced as high as the 10th deck, flooded 62 cabins and injured four passengers.

"The ship was like a cork in a bathtub," recalled Celestine Mcelhatton, a passenger who, along with 2,000 others, eventually made it back to Pier 88 on the Hudson River in Manhattan. Some vowed never to sail again.

Enormous waves that sweep the ocean are traditionally called rogue waves, implying that they have a freakish rarity. Over the decades, skeptical oceanographers have doubted their existence and tended to lump them with sightings of mermaids and sea monsters.

But scientists are now finding that these giants of the sea are far more common and destructive than once imagined, prompting a rush of new studies and research projects. The goals are to understand why they form, explore the possibility of forecasts and learn how to better protect ships, oil platforms and people.

The stakes are high. In the past two decades, freak waves are suspected of sinking dozens of big ships and taking hundreds of lives.

The upshot is that the scientists feel a sense of urgency about the work and growing awe at their subjects.

"I never met, and hope I never will meet, such a monster," said Wolfgang Rosenthal, a German scientist who helped the European Space Agency pioneer the study of rogue waves by radar satellite.

Drawing on recent tallies and making tentative extrapolations, Rosenthal estimated that at any given moment 10 of the giants are churning through the world's oceans.

In size and reach these waves are quite different from earthquake-induced tsunamis, which form low, almost invisible mounds at sea before gaining height while crashing ashore.

"We know these big waves cannot get into shallow water," said David Wang of the Naval Research Laboratory, the science arm of the Navy and Marine Corps. "That's a physical limitation."

By one definition, the titans of the sea rise to heights of at least 25 meters, or 82 feet, about the size of an eight-story building. Scientists have calculated their theoretical maximum at 198 feet -- higher than the Statue of Liberty. So far, however, they have documented nothing that big. Large rogues seem to average around 100 feet.

Most waves, big and small alike, form when the wind blows across open water. The wind's force, duration and sweep determine the size of the swells. Waves of about 6 feet are common, though ones up to 30 or even 50 feet are considered unexceptional.

The trough preceding a rogue wave can be quite deep, what nautical lore calls a "hole in the sea." For anyone on a ship, it is a roller coaster plunge that can be disastrous.

Over the centuries, many accounts have told of monster waves that battered and sank ships. In 1933 in the North Pacific, the Navy oiler Ramapo encountered a huge wave. The crew, calm enough to triangulate from the ship's superstructure, estimated its height at 112 feet.

Despite such accounts, many oceanographers were skeptical. The human imagination tended to embellish, they said.

Then, in February 2000, a British oceanographic research vessel fighting its way through a gale west of Scotland measured titans of up to 95 feet, "the largest waves ever recorded by scientific instruments," seven researchers wrote in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

It quickly became apparent that the big waves formed with some regularity in regions swept by powerful currents: the Agulhas off South Africa, the Kuroshio off Japan, and the Gulf Stream off the eastern United States, where the Norwegian Dawn got into trouble off Georgia.

Already, the scientists said, naval architects and shipbuilders are discussing precautions. Some of the easiest are seen as increasing the strength of windows and hatch covers. But the best precaution will be learning how to avoid the monsters.

Increasingly, scientists are focusing on better understanding how the big waves form and whether that knowledge can lead to accurate forecasts -- a feat that, if achieved, may save hundreds of lives and many billions of dollars in lost commerce.

Oceanographers are focusing on the interplay of exceptionally strong winds and currents, especially in the Agulhas off South Africa. Bengt Fornberg, a mathematician at the University of Colorado, said that several years ago South African authorities began issuing predictions. "That's the only place the theory has succeeded," he said.

Rosenthal said that in the future the continued proliferation of radar satellites should help, bringing about a safer relationship between people and the sea.

"There will be warnings, maybe in 10 years," he said. "It should be possible."

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Group: Needless Fish Warnings Not Good ‘Science,’ Not ‘In The Public Interest’

Washington, D.C. (Jul 6, 2006 20:39 EST) The nonprofit Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) today called on the Food and Drug Administration to dismiss a demand for new warning signs at grocery-store fish counters. While the self-styled "food police" at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) base their latest complaint on a public opinion poll about mercury in fish, CCF has actually tested the fish Americans are eating -- and found no reason for warnings.

Working with an independent laboratory, CCF tested the mercury levels of 142 fish samples from 36 retail stores in the Washington, DC area -- including grocery stores frequented by employees of both CSPI and the Food and Drug Administration. According to the FDA’s own published standards, every single fish CCF tested was safe to eat. The results are detailed in Safe Fish, a report published just two weeks ago.

Safe Fish also details how organizations like CSPI, Oceana, Greenpeace, and others are hiding crucial information from the public, including the ten-fold safety cushion built into the federal government’s existing mercury advisories. The FDA and EPA base their mercury advice on a hyper-precautionary standard -- just ten percent of the lowest level associated with any known health risks.

"If CSPI were really interested in protecting consumers," said CCF Director of Research David Martosko, "it would be giving Americans three simple words of advice: Eat More Fish. It’s really that simple. Mothers and mothers-to-be already have enough to worry about. Fish is a health food, and CSPI’s fear-mongering is what drives women away from fish counters."

Martosko continued: "CSPI’s call for warning signs where 'brain food' is sold only adds to the general confusion Americans have about meaningless traces of mercury. If CSPI wants to eliminate this confusion, it should be conducting real science, not polling the man on the street."

So I looked up CCF and it seems that they are against the FDA and the CSPI, as well as PETA and just about everybody else. I have never read a label that said "DO NOT EAT FISH." I have seen signs recommending not eating alot of fish, say from the Everglades because they MAY contain levels of mercury. This is one of those organizations that are out to get organizations that are trying to protect the health of consumers. All the FDA does is label warnings. CCF are idiots.

Blue Crabs in the Chesapeake Bay

For Marylanders, summer is all about the water. With the warm weather comes trips to the Eastern Shore and Ocean City, boat outings around the Chesapeake Bay, and, of course, crab feasts!

We often hear “blue crabs are in trouble,” but what does that really mean?

The State of the Crab
Scientists survey crab populations by trawling nets to collect crabs or by counting crabs already collected in pots.

The good news is that they have not recorded a massive decline in stock, or local population, lately. In fact, stock estimates during 2002 and 2003 showed improvement over 2001 levels, which were reported at historic lows not seen since the early 1970’s.

Scientists remain concerned that population may drop once again. The future is dependant on high birth rates and the ability of newborn and young crabs to survive over a series of years.

The Chesapeake Bay Commission's 2003 Blue Crab Report demonstrates a need for continued conservation efforts from the private and public sectors.

In 2003, the Chesapeake Bay Commission’s Bi-State Blue Crab Advisory Committee (BBCAC), a committee in place to ensure inter-state coordination between Maryland and Virginia, issued a report outlining several actions to help replenish blue crab populations.

The committee adopted a recommendation of a threshold that would preserve 10% of the blue crab’s spawning stock. If the threshold is not met, the reproductive capacity of the stock could be jeopardized.

Since issuing the report, the committee has disbanded due to insufficient funding.

What's Being Done
To meet the target goal, all three regions making up the BBCAC (Maryland, Virginia, and Potomac River Fisheries Commission) agreed to put new regulations on both commercial and recreational crabbers, as well as seafood processors. These include size limits, restrictions on length of workdays and fishing seasons, and the establishment of seasonal sanctuaries off limits to commercial crabbing.

The Aquarium applauds such initiatives, and invites volunteers to join us for tidal marsh restoration on the Bay to rebuild and preserve the crab's natural habitat.

We encourage our friends and partners to take personal action to ensure that the crabs we catch and eat adhere to size restrictions so that they can grow big enough to produce offspring.

Get more information about blue crab conservation:

Chesapeake Bay Commission
Maryland Sea Grant

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Nature Conservancy buys out fishermen to protect marine ecosystems

Now this is one startegy, if you can only make sure tralwers don't just buy new equipment

SAN FRANCISCO, California (3 July 2006) -- For four generations, Geoff Bettencourt's family has fished the waters off Half Moon Bay by dragging heavy nets across the ocean floor to scoop up the sole and cod that feed there.

But Bettencourt may soon sell his right to trawl the sea — not to another fisherman, but to environmentalists.

The Nature Conservancy announced last week that it had bought six federal trawling permits and four trawling vessels from fishermen in Morro Bay, about halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Now the international environmental group best known for buying development rights from farmers is looking to strike similar deals with fisherman up the coast, including Bettencourt.

The tactic, designed to reward fisherman for forgoing fishing methods that can damage sensitive marine ecosystems, reflects the Conservancy's new, cooperative strategy for protecting the ocean. A contrast to earlier environmental campaigns that some fishermen saw as a financial burden, the group's offer has been well-received, according to Bettencourt.

"They didn't come in saying they hate fishermen," he said.

The Nature Conservancy says its acquisitions represent the nation's first private buy-out of Pacific fishing vessels and permits for conservation purposes. Financial details weren't disclosed, but each fisherman received "several hundred thousand dollars a piece," said Chuck Cook, director of the organization's California coastal and marine program.

"You don't try to punish the fisherman for trying to be good stewards of the ocean," Cook said. "You try to provide economic incentives for treating the habitats and fisheries well."

Fishermen and environmentalists involved in the agreement also persuaded federal fishery managers to ban bottom trawling on nearly 4 million acres of ocean off California's Central Coast.

Federal regulators have declared eight species of West Coast groundfish as overfished. The areas protected as part of the deal include vast undersea canyons near Monterey Bay, Big Sur, and Point Conception.

Bottom trawlers draw large, weighted nets across the sea bed to collect a variety of groundfish. Prized California species include seafood staples like black cod, rock cod, flounder, and Dover sole.

The practice also can damage sensitive habitats by crushing and burying large swaths of coral, rocky reefs, and other habitat vital to undersea life, according to a 2002 National Academy of Sciences study.

Trawl nets also can kill large volumes of fish the fisherman were not intending to catch. A typical three-day trawler trip can yield 50 thousand pounds of fish. Thousands more pounds of unwanted fish and other sea life caught in trawler nets also get thrown overboard before the boats return to shore.

Morro Bay fishermen have trawled the Pacific since at least the 1950s, but the industry there has fallen on hard times.

Read the rest here.

Toxic drugs found in St. Lawrence samples

Environment Canada researchers have found a dozen different types of toxic drugs and even caffeine in water samples taken from the St. Lawrence River in Quebec.

Although the amounts were minuscule, the study raises many questions about the long-term effects of pharmacological pollution in the country's waterways.

"At this point we have detected toxic substances but we don't know what the real toxic effects are," Andre Lajeunesse, one of several researchers involved in the study, said yesterday.

The study found drugs ranging from caffeine and over-the-counter ibuprofen to the prescription antibiotic oxytetracycline and carbamazepine, prescribed to treat epilepsy and Alzheimer's.

The drugs were found in concentrations less than 10 micrograms per litre after sewage treatment -- "trace amounts," said researchers.

The human body disposes of excess medication through urine but current sewage treatment methods were not built to deal with those kind of contaminants, Lajeunesse explained.

Although the study dealt specifically with the St. Lawrence, drug pollution in waterways is widespread, said Francois Gagne, who authored along with two other researchers the study published earlier this year in the journal Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety.

"When you're near a city, you're going to see it," Gagne said.

Drugs, birth control hormones, Prozac and perfume have all turned up in similar studies in the United Kingdom and the United States in recent years.

U.S. and European studies have also found antibiotics, anti-depressants, veterinary drugs and hormones in tap water.

Previous research from Chesapeake Bay to the Thames River has blamed pharmacological and chemical pollution for the feminization of wild male fish.

Testing has begun on fish, sediment and micro-organisms in the St. Lawrence to try and determine the effects of the pollution, such as:

* Do the drugs accumulate in the small life forms and fish that call the river home?

* Is drinking water contaminated downstream?

* Could currently harmless water borne bacteria build up antibiotic resistance and become harmful?

The Sierra Club of Canada would like pharmaceutical companies to take the lead in fine-tuning their products and eliminating the drug pollution at the source.

Judge temporarily bars Navy use of sonar that may harm whales

LOS ANGELES - A federal judge issued a temporary restraining order Monday barring the Navy from using a high-intensity sonar allegedly harmful to marine mammals during a Pacific warfare exercise that began last week.

The order, sought by environmentalists, came three days after the Defense Department granted the Navy a six-month exemption from certain federal laws protecting marine species in its use of "mid-frequency active sonar."

The exemption was obtained to circumvent pending litigation, Joel Reynolds, a lawyer with the National Resources Defense Council, charged in a teleconference with reporters.

The NRDC and other organizations filed suit last week to stop the Navy's use of the sonar in the Rim of the Pacific 2006 exercise off Hawaii. The use of sonar in the war games was set to start Thursday.

The exemption temporarily relieved the Navy from the requirements of the Marine Mammal Protection Act. But U.S. District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper based her order on a different set of environmental laws, the National Environmental Policy Act.

Cooper wrote that the plaintiffs "have shown a possibility that RIMPAC 2006 will kill, injure, and disturb many marine species, including marine mammals, in waters surrounding the Hawaiian Islands."

The Navy's failure to prepare an environmental impact statement or otherwise take a "hard look" at the environmental impact of war games was an "arbitrary and capricious" violation of NEPA, Cooper wrote.

Government lawyers were reviewing the ruling and the Navy will probably have a response shortly, said Jon Yoshishige, a spokesman for the U.S. Pacific Fleet in Hawaii.

The sonar exercise is intended to train sailors to detect and hunt stealthy submarines. Some wildlife authorities and advocates believe the sound waves harm whales and other mammals, possibly by damaging their hearing.

On June 27, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration came to an agreement with the Navy permitting the use of the sonar. It was the first time such a permit had been granted to the Navy.

NOAA determined that the exercise would cause no significant environmental impact, and concluded that the Navy's use of the sonar was not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of threatened and endangered species - including the Hawaiian monk seal - in the exercise areas.

On June 28, the NRDC filed suit in Los Angeles, joined by the International Fund for Animal Welfare, Cetacean Society International and the Ocean Futures Society.

In her ruling, Cooper also ordered the parties to meet to discuss mitigation measures to avoid further litigation.

"We think the proposals we have been making for months now are reasonable," said Richard Kendall, a private lawyer representing the NRDC. "We also think if we sit down with the Navy we can work out the best way implement those proposals."

Kendall said the NRDC had no intention of halting the Navy exercises, which are scheduled to continue to July 28.

Cooper's order was to remain in effect until July 18, when a hearing will be held on whether to replace the temporary restraining order with a preliminary injunction. Lawyers were also ordered to report by July 12 on the results of their meeting.