Friday, June 30, 2006


Report: World-Record Pregnant Hammerhead Caught Off Florida was Carrying World-Record 55 Pups

Sarasota, Florida (Jun 29, 2006 20:27 EST) A great hammerhead shark caught by a recreational fisherman in Boca Grande in May was pregnant, scientists at Mote Marine Laboratory confirmed after a necropsy on the animal.

The shark was measured at 14 feet long and 1,280 pounds, with its hammer measuring more than 3 feet across. At the time the shark was brought to Mote, scientists believed it may have been pregnant because its girth was so wide. The necropsy, or animal autopsy, confirmed that.

Other notable findings from the necropsy:

* This hammerhead’s reproductive tract weighed nearly 250 pounds
* Her stomach contained a whole southern stingray, believed to be the fisherman’s bait, and the rear half of an approximately 5-foot-long tarpon, in addition to numerous tarpon scales. The shark also had a small fishing hook inside her stomach.
* Her liver weighed more than 100 pounds.
* Some of the pups are being saved for future study and scientists have taken samples to be analyzed for genetic makeup. The samples will provide information about the number of males that fathered the pups.


Research: Catastrophic 'Lake Burst' Chilled Climate 8,200 Years Ago

East Anglia, UK (Jun 29, 2006 20:39 EST) Ocean circulation changes during the present warm interglacial were more extensive than previously thought, according to new research by the University of East Anglia (UEA) and Cardiff University.

The findings, reported in this week's edition of the international journal Science (30 June 2006), prove for the first time that sudden North American 'lake bursts' slowed ocean circulation and cooled the climate approximately 8200 years ago. The groundbreaking research increases our understanding of the complex link between ocean circulation and climate change and highlights the sensitivity of the Atlantic overturning circulation to freshwater forcing.

Christopher Ellison and Dr Mark Chapman, of UEA's School of Environmental Sciences, and Dr Ian Hall, of Cardiff University's School of Earth, Ocean and Planetary Sciences, investigated whether there was a connection between the catastrophic freshwater release from glacial lakes in North America, ocean circulation changes and the dramatic cooling seen in many climate records approximately 8200 years ago. The research team studied a sediment core taken from the seabed of the North Atlantic.

"The core contains sediments representing the warm interval since the last Ice Age," said Christopher Ellison of the University of East Anglia. "The sediment includes a variety of small animals called foraminifera that record surface water conditions in their shells when living. We analysed changes in the abundance of different species of foraminifera and the chemistry of the shells to examine past patterns of climate change. We also analysed the sediment grain size to gauge the speed of deep ocean currents and therefore the strength of ocean circulation."

The new findings provide direct evidence of both the freshwater forcing and the climate response.

"The 8200-year-old event is the most recent abrupt climate change event and by far the most extreme cooling episode in the last 10,000 years, but up until now we knew comparatively little about its impact, if any, on the ocean circulation," said Dr Mark Chapman of the University of East Anglia. "Our records show a sequenced pattern of freshening and cooling of the North Atlantic sea surface and an associated change in the deep ocean circulation, all key factors that are involved in controlling the state of northern hemisphere climate."

Dr Ian Hall of Cardiff University said: "The impact of large-scale pulsed inputs of freshwater on ocean circulation and climate during the time of the last Ice Age are well documented, but our results clearly demonstrate that these sorts of abrupt reorganisations also can occur during periods of warm climate. These findings have important implications for future research because they aid our understanding of the magnitude of forcing involved in rapid climate changes and the mechanisms involved. This provides a useful target for assessing the models that are used to predict future patterns of climate change".

Satellites track plankton bloom off B.C. coast

Scientists continue to track a mysterious bloom swirling along the west coast of Vancouver Island.

Satellite images posted on NASA's web site show a blue-green cloud of phytoplankton, tiny plants at the base of the marine food chain that help sustain ocean ecosystems.

A bloom means there are a lot of nutrients present for fish, federal fisheries department scientists said.

There are more than 100 species of plankton that could be causing the bloom, said David Cassis, who studies plankton at the University of British Columbia.

Organisms that carry paralytic shellfish-poisoning toxin, known as red tide, don't have a shell, said Angelica Pena of the Institute of Ocean Sciences in Sidney, B.C.

In this case, the bloom appears to consist mainly of the shelled phytoplankton coccolithophore, scientists at the institute said. The single-celled organisms are shaped like hubcaps surrounded with a microscopic plating of limestone scales.

When trillions of coccolithophores are present, the water turns an opaque turquoise.

Warm weather and bright sunshine are ideal conditions for the organisms. Scientists are concerned global warming could spur more blooms.

Over the long term, the species helps remove carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change, by locking it up in their scales. The scales then form sediment at the bottom of the ocean.

However, in the short term the organisms generate carbon dioxide that can escape into the atmosphere, according to NASA's Earth Observatory web site.

The bloom is concentrated about 15 kilometres off the island's west shore.

Marine biologists say the only way to be certain the phytoplankton is harmful is to test it, but provincial biologists say budget restrictions will prevent testing until the bloom comes within a kilometre of land. They're using satellite images to track the bloom's movements.

Researchers believe the bloom could last up to two weeks, unless a large storm breaks it up sooner.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

As Greenland melts

JAKOBSHAVN GLACIER, Greenland (25 June 2006) -- Gripping a bottle of Jack Daniel's between his knees, Jay Zwally savored the warmth inside the tiny plane as it flew low across Greenland's biggest and fastest-moving outlet glacier.

Mile upon mile of the steep fjord was choked with icy rubble from the glacier's disintegrated leading edge. More than six miles of the Jakobshavn had simply crumbled into open water.

"My God!" Zwally shouted over the hornet whine of the engines.

From satellite sensors and seasons in the field, Zwally, 67, knew the ice sheet below in a way that few could match. Wedged between boxes of scientific instruments, tent bags, duffels and survival gear, the raffish NASA glaciologist with a silver dolphin in one pierced ear was dismayed by how quickly the breakup had occurred.

The Greenland ice sheet -- two miles thick and broad enough to blanket an area the size of Mexico -- shapes the world's weather, matched in influence by only Antarctica in the Southern Hemisphere.

It glows like milky mother-of-pearl. The sheen of ice blends with drifts of cloud as if snowbanks are taking flight.

In its heartland, snow that fell a quarter of a million years ago is still preserved. Temperatures dip as low as 86 degrees below zero. Ground winds can top 200 mph. Along the ice edge, meltwater rivers thread into fraying brown ropes of glacial outwash, where migrating herds of caribou and musk ox graze.

The ice is so massive that its weight presses the bedrock of Greenland below sea level, so all-concealing that not until recently did scientists discover that Greenland actually might be three islands.

Should all of the ice sheet ever thaw, the meltwater could raise sea level 21 feet and swamp the world's coastal cities, home to a billion people. It would cause higher tides, generate more powerful storm surges and, by altering ocean currents, drastically disrupt the global climate.

Climate experts have started to worry that the ice cap is disappearing in ways that computer models had not predicted.

By all accounts, the glaciers of Greenland are melting twice as fast as they were five years ago, even as the ice sheets of Antarctica -- the world's largest reservoir of fresh water -- also are shrinking, researchers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the University of Kansas reported in February.

Zwally and other researchers have focused their attention on a delicate ribbon -- the equilibrium line, which marks the fulcrum of frost and thaw in Greenland's seasonal balance.

The zone runs around the rim of the ice cap like a drawstring. Summer melting, on average, offsets the annual accumulation of snow.

Across the ice cap, however, the area of seasonal melting was broader last year than in 27 years of record-keeping, University of Colorado climate scientists reported. In early May, temperatures on the ice cap some days were almost 20 degrees above normal, hovering just below freezing.

From cores of ancient Greenland ice extracted by the National Science Foundation, researchers have identified at least 20 sudden climate changes in the last 110,000 years, in which average temperatures fluctuated as much as 15 degrees in a single decade.

The increasingly erratic behavior of the Greenland ice has scientists wondering whether the climate, after thousands of years of relative stability, may again start oscillating.

For those assessing the effect of global warming, there may be no more perfect place than this warren of red tents on the Northern Hemisphere's largest ice cap. Here, the theoretical effects seen in computerized climate models take tangible form.

Most of the computer models on which climate predictions are based did not take the dynamics of the glaciers into account.

When Zwally started tracking the velocity of the ice with Global Positioning System sensors in 1996, the ice flow maintained a steady pace all year.

But he soon discovered that the ice had abruptly shifted gears in the summer, moving faster when the surface ice started to melt.

By 1999, the ice stream had almost tripled its speed to about 3 feet a day.

"This meltwater acceleration is new," Zwally said. "The significance of this is that it is a mechanism for climate change to get into the ice."

Large areas of Alaska's sea floor closed to bottom trawling

A final rule was published Wednesday that closes large areas of Alaska's sea floor to bottom trawling. The move -- which was recommended by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, is being done to protect sensitive habitat in the Aleutian Islands and the Gulf of Alaska. The new rule takes effect July 28th.

Environmentalists have long argued that coral beds, sponge gardens and underwater peaks known as seamounts will be ruined without more protection from bottom trawlers, which scrape the ocean floor with weighted nets.

The rule closes most of the Aleutian Islands fishery management area to bottom trawling. But most fishing areas that have been trawled repeatedly in the past will remain open.

The Aleutian Islands habitat conservation area established under the new rule covers more than 279-thousand square nautical miles -- or an area approximately the size of Texas and Colorado combined. In the Gulf of Alaska, ten areas along the continental slope will be closed to bottom trawling. And five small areas in Southeast Alaska also are being closed.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Heavy rains!

From June 23 to June 26, heavy downpours pounded the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States, including the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. At one point, the primary interstate highway circling the city, the Capital Beltway, was closed after a mudslide covered the road. Other roads in the region were also closed as a result of widespread flash flooding. The rains fell as a steady stream of very moist tropical air was channeled up the East Coast from the South. The air stalled over the Mid-Atlantic region, where it was continuing to produce heavy rain as of June 26.

This image shows an estimate of rainfall totals for June 23 through June 26. The heaviest rainfall totals for the period (shown in red) were around 6 inches, occurring over Maryland’s Eastern Shore (east of the Chesapeake Bay) and central Delaware. Locally, 10 to 12 inches of rain was reported in Federalsburg, Maryland, which falls within the dark red region in eastern Maryland. Other areas of heavy rain are evident northwest of Baltimore between the city and the eastern slopes of the Appalachian Mountains, over north-central North Carolina, and in parts of Virginia and southern New Jersey.

The rainfall totals in this image are from the near-real-time, Multi-satellite Precipitation Analysis (MPA) developed at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center to monitor rainfall over the global tropics. The MPA uses rainfall measurements from the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission satellite (TRMM) to calibrate rainfall estimates from other satellites. TRMM was launched in 1997 to measure rainfall over the global tropics. The satellite uses a combination of passive microwave and active radar sensors to detect rain, and these estimates of rainfall totals can be used to calibrate rainfall estimates from other satellites. TRMM is a joint mission between NASA and the Japanese space agency, JAXA.

Image produced by Hal Pierce (SSAI/NASA GSFC) and caption by Steve Lang (SSAI/NASA GSFC).

70,000 Flounder With Nowhere to Go

Unless they get a reprieve from Gov. George E. Pataki or a court-ordered stay of execution, as many as 70,000 hatchery-raised flounder will be destroyed now that the State Department of Environmental Conservation has refused to give the East Hampton Town Trustees a permit to release them in local waters.

“I’m going to write the governor next, the whole town is for it. Only this small group in the D.E.C. is against it,” said Larry Penny, the town’s director of natural resources. Mr. Penny’s office has acted as an intermediary between the trustees and the State Department of Environmental Conservation.

“I will have to put them down,” said Robert Valenti, a biologist and the owner of Multi-Aquaculture Systems on Napeague, who spawned the flounder from locally caught brood stock and raised them under a contract with the town trustees. The trustees paid Dr. Valenti $19,000 to grow the flounder in order to augment local populations of the species.

The juvenile flatfish were ready for release last month, but were kept in Dr. Valenti’s tanks pending the resolution of testy correspondence between the state and the Town Natural Resources Department, which for the second year has overseen the project on behalf of the trustees.

Gordon Colvin, the director of the D.E.C.’s marine resources division on Long Island, had warned Mr. Penny that Dr. Valenti’s license to raise fish would be in jeopardy should the flounder be released, since the D.E.C. had not approved the release into state waters.
On May 9 Mr. Penny wrote back to Mr. Colvin, saying that the town had applied for the permit needed to release the flounder this year and had been given tacit approval for the project last year.

Last year the D.E.C. cooperated with town officials and Dr. Valenti before the release of the trustees’ 2005 batch of 20,000 hatchery-raised flounder, Mr. Penny said. At the time, the D.E.C. insisted that the 2005 batch be tagged with dye in order to monitor the success of the project in the years to come.

Mr. Penny told Mr. Colvin that, at the time of the release, the town was given no indication that future projects would be forbidden. He asked the state agency to reconsider.

A June 13 letter to Mr. Penny from Gerald Barnhart, the director of the agency’s division of fish, wildlife, and guity about the state’s position today.

“You are not authorized to release winter flounder, or any species of finfish, into the waters of the marine and coastal district of New York. Any release would constitute a violation of the Environmental Conservation Law of New York State,” Mr. Barnhart wrote.

Mr. Barnhart, who is Mr. Colvin’s boss, said that “stocking young flounder is unlikely to contribute to ongoing efforts to rebuild winter flounder stocks.”

Rather, a 2005 amendment to a flounder management plan of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission stated that reducing fishing mortality and protecting near-shore habitat were the preferred ways to bolster the population. The state is obliged to follow the commission’s policies under threat of federal intervention.

“The department views the stocking of migratory fish of the sea to be a very serious matter,” Mr. Barnhart wrote. “We believe a decision to stock marine waters should only be made after careful and deliberate evaluation of the need for such stocking, the potential environmental impacts, and the risks for disease and genetic changes in wild stocks.”

“I’m disgusted,” Dr. Valenti said on Tuesday. “They found a weak link, me. They sent me a letter. I can’t transfer the fish to someone [the town] who does not have a permit. It leaves a very bad taste in my mouth. Very negative.”

“These people are backwoods. They’re not scientists,” he went on. “It’s done in other states without any furor,” he said, explaining that migratory fish were raised in a New Hampshire hatchery under contract with the States of Connecticut and Massachusetts. Both states provided the necessary permits to release the fish, Dr. Valenti said.

He added he understand that the D.E.C.’s decision was based, in part, on the policies of the Atlantic States Commission, but that it didn’t make the decision a correct one.

Billy Vorpahl, a town trustee, said yesterday that his board would try to find a way to save the fish, and Mr. Penny said that the trail of letters from the D.E.C. was “filled with misinformation” about the town’s handling of the matter.

“I think it’s definitely litigable,” Mr. Penny said. “The fish belong to the trustees. I don’t want to get Bob in trouble, but they belong to the trustees.”

He suggested that, to buy time for a rescue to be worked out, Dr. Valenti might transfer the juvenile flounder to his larger outdoor tanks. “I’m going to work hard to save the fish,” Mr. Penny said.

Basically, heres how it goes(year by year): Well first we can't be sure that the winter flounder stocks are disappearing... Next, well there may be less winter flounder but lets wait and see if their is a recovery... Then, they haven't returned to prior levels yet, perhaps somehting is wrong... Next, lets investigate possible reasons for their decline, but do nothing to help the population to recover... Further, well the investigations have yielded inconclusive results so more studies need to be undertaken before anything is put in stone... Finally, we don't know why the flounder are going away, however, we do not feel the best course of action is trying to repopulate, but actually to correct the problems of which we have no idea.... NICE GOING GOVERNMENT IDIOTS

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Conn. scientists investigate marsh die-off

MADISON, Conn. (AP) — Something is killing New England's salt marshes, and scientists are trying to figure out how large the problem is, and how to stop it. Parts of the marshes, normally teeming with cord grass, fish and birds have turned mud brown and bare of life except for fiddler crabs.

"No one recalls seeing anything like this," Ron Rozsa, coastal ecologist with Connecticut's Department of Environmental Protection, told the Day of New London as he surveyed a section of the Oyster River salt marsh in Old Saybrook. "We're talking about a crime scene investigation some forensic ecology, if you will."

Scientists are calling the mysterious phenomenon sudden wetlands dieback.
The marshes make up abut 10,000 acres along Connecticut's Long Island Sound coast.

They are considered the foundation of the marine food chain and buffer the shoreline against flooding and storms. A dieback has also been seen in brackish marshes, which have lower salinity and cover about 3,000 acres in the state.

But the problem is not limited to Connecticut. Dieback has been reported in all five of the coastal New England states and is most evident in the marshes of Cape Cod.

Dieback sites have also been documented on Long Island, Virginia, Georgia, South Carolina, Texas and Louisiana where scientists call it brown marsh. It appears to have begun about seven years ago, occurring in isolated but, in some cases, relatively large patches, biologists say.

The dieback is causing erosion problems along the shore.

On healthy salt marshes, the smooth cord grass grows in a belt right up to water's edge, securing the marsh.

The death of the grasses effectively means that section of marsh ceases to exist as a productive habitat.

In a dieback site, irregular margins of gray-brown marsh soils are exposed, cut away by tides and waves that wash in during storms, forming terraced walls, trenches and caves in the creek banks.

"We don't know what's causing it, and we don't know how to stop it. Is it a disease, or a response to a combination of factors? We want to get a handle on what this thing is," said Susan Adamowicz, a land management research and demonstration biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

You don't know whats causing it... its been going on for 7 years and you dont know whats causing it... there was never a thought to investigate, hmm why are our precious and now apparently valuable salt marshes disappearing??? I will give you a few hints, so you can start your investigation... Here's a clue, proposed by Dr Brian Silliman through various research projects... LITTORARIA!! fungal farming snails, cut gashes in the cord grass and allow fungus to colonize the gash, which the snaisl then eat... but this fungus kills the grass blade... of course, these snails have always been there, so whats the problem... hmm overfishing of crab predators perhaps... without enough predators to keep snail populations under control, the snails can totally devastate salt marshes... or maybe all those chemicals sprayed into the marshes that serve as "mosquito repellants" have somehting to do with it... or maybe introduced exotics... doesnt matter though bc even if we save them we are almost past the point of no return in global warming and sea level will rise and drown out the remaining marshes anyway... WAY TO GO HUMAN RACE!

Monday, June 26, 2006

3 Manatees Found Dead In St. Johns

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Wildlife investigators are investigating the deaths of three manatees found floating in the St. Johns River Thursday.

Investigators said the mammals have deep wounds that might have been caused by speeding boats.

Channel 4's Melanie Lawson reported that a fourth manatee was found seriously injured and was being taken to Lyons Club Park.

Environmentalist remain concerned about manatees, especially because the animals were recently removed from Florida's endangered-species list and put on the threaten-species list.

However, boaters are still expected to abide by rules posted in the manatee zone.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, an average of 336 manatees died each year in Florida over the last five years. An average of 43, which is 22 percent, of those are the result of watercraft impact.

There were 14 manatees deaths recorded in Duval County last year, four by watercraft.

The FFWCC said the state manatee population is currently at about 3,000.

How fucking convenient, that as soon as Florida removes manatees from the endangered species list, boaters don't give a shit if they kill manatees by speeding... GOOD FUCKING JOB JEB YOU ASSHOLE

NOAA Releases Report on Status of U.S. Marine Fisheries for 2005; Overfishing in Decline

Washington, D.C. (Jun 21, 2006 12:13 EST) NOAA has released a report on the status of U.S. marine fisheries for 2005. The government report shows both progress in rebuilding overfished species and response of fisheries managers to slow fishing rates for species that were found in 2005 to have above-target harvests. Each year, NOAA announces the state of U.S. fisheries to inform Congress and the American public of the agency's progress in restoring fish stocks to sustainable population levels. The annual report tracks both population levels and harvest rates for species caught in federal marine waters, between three and 200 miles off U.S. coasts.

In 2005, NOAA scientists determined population levels for 206 fish stocks and multi-species groupings known as complexes. Of these, 152 (74 percent) were not overfished. NOAA scientists also determined the harvest rates for 237 stocks and found that 192 (81 percent) were not subject to overfishing.

HONESTLY i think this is total bullshit... check out the link if you want... but i find it very hard to believe that real scientific studies would give these results... especially considering the fact that a large number of noaa scientists have admitted to receiving pressure to alter their findings to be more suitable for the administration, or told not to talk when findings are not to the likings of those running the show... this is more bullshit...

Sunday, June 25, 2006

California Current Warming?

This is the time of the year when the ocean off the California coast should be at its most lush, teeming with vast schools of krill to feed whales and salmon as well as plenty of baby rockfish for seabirds, seals and fishermen's nets.

But based on new counts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, federal researchers are reporting an odd summer and a scarcity of some sea life from San Diego to Newport, Ore., for the second year in a row. And some scientists wonder if the warming of the world's oceans and atmosphere is playing a part.

"The upwelling that we normally expect in the springtime hasn't kicked in,'' said Frank Schwing, a NOAA oceanographer in Pacific Grove.

"We think there might be real consequences for the seabirds, fish and mammals.''

On the Farallon Islands, krill-eating Cassin's auklets are producing only a few chicks this year. Common murres, although plentiful in numbers, for the most part can't find the rockfish to keep their young alive.

Many scientists believe that the years of 2005 and 2006 should have been cold ones in the California Current, the band of coastal water from Baja California to British Columbia, according to calculations of naturally alternating cold and warm periods over the past millennia.

By now, the offshore waters should be roiling with plankton and the shrimp-like krill, the foundation of the ocean's food chain. Instead, the researchers say, the organisms appear to be in short supply.

Oceanographers are scratching their heads over the brand-new data. While they believe that global warming may be throwing off natural climate regimes, they don't know how the warming might eventually affect the California Current.

"Is it just natural variability of the climate or is it part of the brave new world that we associate with global climate change?'' Schwing said.

The white-bellied gray Cassin's auklets signal potential disaster for some species of seabirds, an early indicator of the ocean's health. The birds are abandoning their Farallon nests, a sign that they can't find enough krill.

Russ Bradley, a PRBO Conservation Science biologist who monitors birds on the islands, called 2006 "an incredibly poor year'' for the stocky robin-sized bird. Its numbers have declined to 25,000 in 2004 from about 105,000 in 1972.

The penguin-like common murres, which number more than 200,000, apparently haven't been able to locate the small rockfish they feed their hatchlings. On this largest murre colony south of Alaska, researchers see parent birds trying unsuccessfully to stuff anchovies three times the size of baby rockfish into hungry mouths.

Rockfish counts are the lowest in 24 years of NOAA monitoring by offshore vessels, meaning that the fish stocks for Pacific snapper and other rockfish may be low in 2008 to 2012 when they would come to market. The inch-long krill is also turning up low numbers, report NOAA scientists.

The California ocean system is fed by both transport of colder, rich waters from the North Pacific and upwelling of deep sea life-filled cold waters. Only recently, scientists determined that warm and cold periods have alternated for thousands of years according to 15- to 20-year cycles called climate regimes, in part driven by the currents from the North Pacific and changes in atmospheric pressure and the direction of winter winds.

In this scheme, this should be a cold period.

But this winter, like last, the cold waters harboring nutritious krill, copepods and other zooplankton didn't come from the North Pacific. And in the timing of ocean life, that's when the spawned rockfish larvae and other organisms needed them.

In spring, the normal upwelling of nutrients that promote growth of the phytoplankton, the tiny plants that feed the zooplankton, petered out in late May in the California Current. The upwelling could restart but it would be too late for the auklets and the rockfish.

"The years 2005 and 2006 have been awful,'' said Steve Ralston, a NOAA supervisory research fishery biologist in Santa Cruz, who returned this week from a 40-day vessel cruise from Cape Mendocino to San Diego.

The average catch rate of 100-day-old shortbelly rockfish was 24 per trawl over the past quarter century. In May and June 2005, the average rate was 0.15 fish per trawl, the lowest on record. This year is comparable to 2005, he said.

"We're getting El Niño-like conditions in non-El Niño years,'' Ralston said.

In El Niño years, the California Current is influenced by the powerful short-term fluxes of warm water that are precipitated by a failure of trade winds at the equator. But such an oceanwide effect hasn't been seen.

"If you throw snake-eyes in craps two times in a row, what can you say? Is it bad luck or is that the way it is?'' Ralston asked.

In Newport, Ore., another NOAA oceanographer, Bill Peterson, has found low numbers of copepods, tiny crustaceans and krill in the 2006 counts. But upwelling started up last weekend and may improve numbers, he said.

A NOAA team in the Pacific Northwest is now searching for juvenile salmon as part of the current count. Preliminary results show that the numbers are better than last year, Peterson said.

It's also too early to tell the biological effects on the krill-eating blue whales and humpbacked whales.

"If it turns out that the entire California Current is having a real low year, there probably could be an effect on a whale population,'' said Steve Reilly, director of the protected resources division in NOAA.

Scripps Institution of Oceanography biologist John McGowan, who started studying ocean conditions more than 50 years ago, said Thursday that there was "a great deal of disruption going on in food webs and it's climate related.''

"The carbon dioxide in the atmosphere right now is sufficient to keep trapping heat for a good many years into the future even if we don't put any more into the atmosphere,'' he said, citing the imbalance between the amount of heat coming in from the sun and the amount of heat going out into space.

"The California Current goes up and down like the stock market, but the ups and down are warmer,'' McGowan said, "and there's a long-term trend upward just as there is in the stock market.''

Friday, June 02, 2006

Government blocks wind farm plans

WASHINGTON, May 31 (UPI) -- The U.S. government has ordered work stopped on more than a dozen wind farms, saying the giant turbines might interfere with military radar.

But supporters of wind power say the reason for the actions is political and has little to do with national security, the Chicago Tribune reported Wednesday.

In one instance, critics say, a group of wealthy vacationers believe a proposed wind farm off the Cape Cod, Mass., coast would spoil the view of the ocean from their summer homes.

The attempt to stop the planting of 130 turbines in Nantucket Sound has led to a moratorium on new wind farms across Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, the Tribune reported.

Federal officials have refused to say how many stop-work orders have been issued, but developers told the newspaper at least 15 projects have been shut down by the government so far this year.

The list of halted wind power projects includes one near Bloomington, Ill., scheduled to begin this summer and start operations next year. That wind farm would be the nation's largest source of wind energy, generating enough power for 120,000 Chicago-area homes.

OK, am I the only one fed up with fucking lobbyists and money controlling Washington?? What real sense does it make to halt the wind turbines?? The only treal threat to national security is that we are in an energy deficit every year and the ones controlling the worlds oil and prices are the same ones who hate us... Foreign oil is a bigger threat to national security than fucking wind turbines... I HATE THIS FUCKING COUNTRY

Tide machines may be major power sources

OSLO, Norway, June 1 (UPI) -- The Norwegian firm, Statkraft, has proposed creating underwater tide-harnessing machines to provide up to 3 percent of the European Union's electricity.

The floating machines -- about 130 feet long by 50 feet wide -- use tidal water movements to turn submerged turbines, the EU Observer reported Thursday.

Statkraft estimates the technology eventually could supply up to 100 terawatts of power for the EU, with Germany, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands already interested in the project.

"They are commercially competitive with wind power," the firm's senior advisor, Bjornar Olsen, told reporters. "But unlike wind, tidal movements are constant. The waters only stay still for two to four hours each day."

The low visibility tide machines also have a lesser environmental impact compared with the nearly 400 feet high windmills already in operation in the United Kingdom and Norway, the EU Observer said.

A prototype tide farm is to begin operating later this year near Tromso, Norway, with commercial energy production expected within four to six years, Olsen said.

Statkraft says it is the third largest producer of power in the Nordic region and Europe's second largest producer of power based on renewable energy sources.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

California still fighting to put mercury warnings on canned tuna

California is striking back after losing a significant ruling earlier this month against its efforts to require mercury-warning labels on canned tuna.

State Attorney General Bill Lockyer filed objections Friday to a San Francisco Superior Court judge's decision, asking the court to halt final publication of the order and reverse the ruling.

California law requires that any consumer product being sold that poses a potential threat of cancer or birth defect contain a notice explaining the risk.

Methylmercury is the chemical form of mercury known to harm the developing nervous system in young children and fetuses. The element occurs naturally, but pollution from industrial development has increased its presence, especially in the ocean.

Mercury accumulates in the body, which is why large predator fish, such as shark and swordfish, contain the highest levels.

Tuna also is a large predator fish, and federal and state environmental agencies have cautioned people against eating too much of it.

"The evidence showed that women who do not eat fish, like tuna, have children who perform significantly less well on mental tests. The evidence also showed that the AG warning would cause women -- and others who have no reason to limit fish consumption at all -- to stop eating fish," said Forrest Hainline, an attorney for the tuna producers. "Bottom line: The AG warning would harm California consumers, including women and their babies. The judge's decision helped California consumers, including women and their babies."

Health officials are concerned not only in California. Five years ago, health officials in Washington issued warnings that some people should limit their consumption of tuna.

The court decision in California earlier this month was hailed as a long-awaited victory by industry groups who have frequently decried California's unparalleled consumer-oriented requirements as overly burdensome for many businesses.

"Judge Robert Dondero bought a bogus argument concocted by the industry and the Bush administration," said Tom Dresslar, Lockyer's spokesman, about the court objections. "Further, Dondero relied on an obsolete, 20-year-old study of rats, as opposed to more current studies of humans presented by the state."

Dresslar said the judge relied on the notion that even the mercury coming from pollution is considered "naturally occurring," in ruling that levels in canned tuna are not high enough to require warning labels.

The tuna industry fought vigorously against California, even seeking help from the Bush administration.

Last summer, the federal Food and Drug Administration wrote an informal letter to the court arguing that federal law regarding food labeling overrules the state's law and that California should not be required to force tuna producers to add extra labels to their products.

After a monthlong trial and years of arguments, the court sided with the tuna industry and said that popular canned tuna brands, Chicken of the Sea, StarKist and Bumble Bee, did not have to place mercury warnings on their products.

The decision, if allowed to stand, would likely set a precedent against the need for consumer warning labels in other industries.

California has required the labeling of many such products, often through the use of legal force, that is, by the state suing companies in court.

Proposition 65 has sparked national corporate reform in the consumer market in the past. If potentially unhealthy products must be labeled in a state as large as California, manufacturers and retailers could be moved to extend the labeling as a matter of efficient business practice.

After filing a pair of lawsuits in 2003, Lockyer's office was able to get restaurants and grocery stores in his state to post warning notices when serving tuna and other large fish species that are known to contain potentially harmful levels of methylmercury.

Last year, the companies that settled with the attorney general extended their notices for consumers in other states.

For example, consumers in Washington now can pick up an information card outlining mercury risks at the fish counters of Safeway stores.

Fla. manatees might be endangered no more

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., May 31 (UPI) -- Florida's Fish and Wildlife Commission is expected to remove manatees from its endangered species list next week.

The action has been urged for several years by boating enthusiasts who don't like restrictions on their hobby. But the commission's executive director, Ken Haddad, told the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times that action will not eliminate boating speed zones, since speeding boats accounted for a quarter of all manatee deaths annually.

Approximately 3,000 manatees swim in Florida's waterways.

Haddad and his staff are meeting with newspaper editorial writers across Florida ahead of an expected controversy over reclassifying the manatee.

Manatees were placed on the earliest endangered species list in 1967. Federal officials are also reassessing the manatee's endangered status.

Boat hulls and keels crack manatees' skulls and ribs, the Times said, while waterfront homes and marinas have eliminated many areas where the animal once found refuge.

This is total bullshit, just another instance of government caving to lobbyists. I highly doubt the public supports removing manatees from the list.

Yangtze river grows 'cancerous' with pollution

BEIJING - China's longest river is "cancerous" with pollution and rapidly dying, threatening drinking water supplies in 186 cities along its banks, state media said.

Chinese environmental experts fear worsening pollution could kill the Yangtze river within five years, Xinhua news agency said, calling for an urgent clean-up.

"Many officials think pollution is nothing," Yuan Aiguo, a professor with the China University of Geosciences, said. "But the pollution is very serious" he added, warning that experts considered it "cancerous".

Industrial waste and sewage, agricultural pollution and shipping discharges were to blame for the river's declining health, experts said.

Yangtze is the third-longest river in the world after the Nile and the Amazon. It runs from remote far west Qinghai and Tibet through 186 cities including Chongqing and Nanjing and reaches the sea at Shanghai.

It absorbs more than 40 per cent of the country's waste water, 80 per cent of it untreated, said Lu Jianjian, from East China Normal University.

"As the river is the only source of drinking water in Shanghai, it has been a great challenge to get clean water," Xinhua quoted him as saying.

China is facing a severe water crisis - 300 million people do not have access to drinkable water - and Beijing has been spending heavily to clean major waterways such as the Yellow, Huaihe and Yangtze rivers.

But those clean-up campaigns have made limited progress because of spotty regional enforcement. Toxic spills are common, the worst recently being in the Songhua river in the northeast which led to the taps of Harbin being turned off for days.

Ironically, the Yangtze is earmarked for China's South-North water diversion scheme, which will pump water to parched areas.

Environmentalists fear that most of the water shipped will not be fit to drink.

THIS IS SOMETHING we need to pay close attention to. Not only is China's population ever expanding, their need for valuable resources is too. This includes water. Much attention is being paid now to oil, and most of the whole Iran controversy is probably to prevent China from getting more oil (the US is very scared of China). But if this trend continues with China's rivers, you better believe that the next major conflict in this world will be over supplies of clean fresh water...