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sydneyst
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 Posted: Tue Jun 25th, 2013 07:31 am

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National Wildlife Federation says environmental effects of BP spill far from over

http://www.nola.com/news/gulf-oil-spill/index.ssf/2013/04/national_wildlife_federation_s_1.html



Oil from the BP Deepwater Horizon spill collects in a boom at Pass a Loutre on June 11, 2010.  

By Mark Schleifstein, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune

Two weeks before the third anniversary of the BP Gulf oil spill, the National Wildlife Federation has issued a report declaring that the environmental effects are far from over and recommending ways to respond to lingering impacts and prevent future spills.

In the report, the federation calls for the Justice Department to hold firm in its efforts to hold BP and other parties "fully accountable for gross negligence and willful misconduct" in the ongoing federal civil damages trial being held in New Orleans.

 Such a ruling could trigger billions of dollars in higher fines under the federal Clean Water Act and Oil Pollution Act. Concerns have been raised that the Justice Department could call for a lesser penalty in an attempt to settle the case out of court.

The report also recommends that a significant percentage of the fine money be spent to rebuild wetlands in Louisiana along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico.


...The national environmental group also urged that any final settlement of claims against the responsible parties include a "reopener clause" to ensure the companies can be held accountable if future damages from the spill occur. That provision is required under the Oil Pollution Act, the group points out.

The federation wants federal, state and local officials to commit to spending the 80 percent of money allocated to them from Clean Water Act fines to ecological restoration. The law actually allows some of the money to be used to compensate for economic impacts, and some states have indicated that they will use some of the money for that purpose.

The group also urged Congess and the Obama administration to reform oil and gas leasing practices and permitting requirements to provide better safeguards for wildlife and the environment.

The recommendations were included in "Restoring a Degraded Gulf of Mexico: Wildlife and Wetlands Three Years into the Gulf Oil Disaster," which was released Tuesday morning.


...The federation report gave grades to key environmental concerns that have been tracked by federation scientists during the past three years. They were:

-- Coastal wetlands: poor. The report said about 1,100 miles of shoreline were oiled, including coastal wetlands that already were rapidly eroding, especially in Louisiana's Mississippi River delta region. It recommends using fine money to restore barrier islands and to pay for sediment diversions, as recommended in the state's 2012 Coastal Master Plan. It also recommends implanting strategies to reduce nutrients carried in rivers that cause low oxygen "dead zones" in coastal waters.

-- Sea turtles: poor. More than 1,700 turtles were stranded between May 2010 and November 2012, more than three times the previous annual rate of strandings, said Doug Inkley, senior wildlife biologist with the federation. Most affected were Kemps ridley turtles, which are the most endangered species of sea turtles in the world, he said.

The turtle population could be helped through the restoration of seagrass beds and nearshore habitats, removing obstacles to nesting on beaches at night, and reducing and modifying beach lighting that disorients nesting turtles and hatchlings, the report said. A small part of $1 billion that BP already has set aside to pay for natural resource damages already has been dedicated to several such projects in Florida and Alabama.

-- Bluefin tuna: poor. Bluefin tuna are already in significant decline because of overfishing, according to the report. Lowered commercial fishing quotas in 2010 and 2011 and better enforcement against illegal fishing may have helped improve the fish's population numbers in the Gulf, the report said. But it pointed out that the economic pressure on the fishery is significant, as evidenced by the sale of a single 489-pound Pacific bluefin tuna in Japan for $1.8 million. The federation recommended using oil spill fine money to buy more selective fishing gear for commercial fishermen to reduce incidental take of bluefin tuna and other species, and research into adjusting the timing and location of long-line fishing in the Gulf to minimize bluefin bycatch.

-- Bottlenose dolphins: fair. This rating is despite the loss of 650 stranded dolphins during the past 3 years, including more than 130 infants or stillborn calves. "The poor health of dolphins in heavily-oiled areas and continuing unprecedented strandings, including babies, ever since the Gulf oil disaster, suggest that some local populations could be in decline," the report said. "How long these effects will last and how dolphins will fare in less heavily-oiled areas are unknown and are cause for concern."
The federation recommends using fine money to assist in dolphin recovery by restoring coastal wetlands and ensuring a more natural pattern of river flows into Gulf estuaries to support the animals' food web.

-- Deep sea coral: fair. Scientific reports following the spill indicated that several colonies of deep sea coral near the BP Macondo well in the deep Gulf were killed. Laboratory studies show coral larvae species from the Florida Keys exposed to oil, the dispersant Corexit and an oil/dispersant mix, had lower survival rates than uncontaminated larvae.

It recommended that some fine money could be used to upgrade coastal wastewater and stormwater systems that would protect sensitive land in watersheds and help rebuild oyster reefs.

-- Shrimp: good. Shrimp landings in the Gulf in 2011 were near the average for annual shrimp landings in the previous 20 years. However, the report noted that contaminated coastal wetlands are used by the juvenile stages of shrimp, and wetlands losses are expected to be a long-term threat to shrimp populations.

-- Brown pelicans: good. Despite the good rating, the report pointed out that 826 brown pelicans were collected from the spill area, 577 of which were either dead or later died. Oil also contaminated island mangrove thickets used for nesting, and the effects of oil on fish eaten by pelicans is still under way. The report said fine money can help continued efforts to rebuild the coast's pelican population through the creation of wetlands and islands and restoring vegetation on barrier islands used as rookeries.

Last edited on Tue Jun 25th, 2013 07:38 am by sydneyst

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 Posted: Thu Jan 17th, 2013 03:28 am

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Research Suggests Some Coral Will Survive Climate Change

Caveats Included Regarding Changes in Reefs

http://www.livescience.com/19678-coral-reefs-climate-change.html  

Some species of coral will be winners and others losers as ocean temperatures rise, a new study suggests.

The research highlights the complexity of the changes that global warming is likely to have on ocean habitats. And which corals thrive and which struggle could determine what the coral reefs of the future look like.

"The good news is that, rather than experiencing wholesale destruction, many coral reefs will survive climate change by changing the mix of coral species as the ocean warms and becomes more acidic," Terry Hughes, a researcher at James Cook University in Australia, said in a statement. "That's important for people who rely on the rich and beautiful coral reefs of today for food, tourism and other livelihoods."


Most studies of changing coral reefs have used the relatively crude measure of total coral cover to gauge the health of reefs. Hughes and his colleagues wanted to get more detail and to understand how the composition, not just the total size, of the coral changes in different conditions. [Virtual Dive: Colorful Coral Photos]

The researchers examined more than 35,000 coral colonies along Australia's Great Barrier Reef. The sites studied were up to 1,081 miles (1,740 kilometers) apart.

"We chose the iconic Great Barrier Reef as our natural laboratory because water temperature varies by 8 to 9 degrees Celsius (14.4 to 16.2 degrees Fahrenheit) along its full length from summer to winter, and because there are wide local variations in pH [a measure of acidity]," Hughes said. "Its regional-scale natural gradients encompass the sorts of conditions that will apply several decades from now under business-as-usual greenhouse gas emissions."

The results revealed "surprisingly flexible" assemblies of corals along the reef and in different environments within the reef, the researchers reported Thursday (April 12) in the journal Current Biology. For example, on the crests of the reef, nine of the 12 major scientific groupings found varied widely from region to region. Species colonizing reef crests likewise varied from reef slopes.

Earlier research has shown that corals' survival could depend on the presence of warm-water genes. Some solitary coral can survive in extremely acidic [url=http://www.livescience.com/17371-corals-acidic-submarine-springs.html]http://www.livescience.com/17371-corals-acidic-submarine-springs.html]submarine springs[/url], but these coral look very different from the iconic reef-building types known today.

The ultimate effects of climate change could mean that the reefs of the future look very different than the ones of today. For example, if branching corals were replaced by moundlike corals, fish would have fewer nooks and crannies for shelter, Hughes said. But the findings also indicate the reefs will ultimately survive climate change in some form — if something else doesn't kill them off first. 

"Coral reefs are also threatened by much more local impacts, especially by pollution and overfishing," Hughes said. "We need to address all of the threats, including climate change, to give coral reefs a fighting chance for the future."

Last edited on Thu Jan 17th, 2013 03:33 am by sydneyst

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 Posted: Thu Jan 17th, 2013 03:23 am

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Beautiful Film on Bygone Coral Reefs of Planet Earth

http://vimeo.com/45428354

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 Posted: Wed Oct 10th, 2012 06:10 am

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Hazards of Arctic Exploitation Defined by New Scientist
http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21628853.800-exploitation-of-the-arctic-must-be-reined-in.html



Rampant economic activity in one of our last wildernesses is a disaster in the making. The world needs the Arctic and we have a responsibility to protect it



THE Arctic is turning into the new El Dorado. Until now, exploitation of resources in the far north has largely been confined to the land. But with climate change ripping away the ice shield protecting the ocean, vast stores of mineral and hydrocarbon wealth - and maybe fish stocks too - are becoming exposed to humanity's most predatory instincts. This year has seen a sharp increase in preparations to extract wealth from the ocean's extensive continental shelves (see "Industries make a dash for the Arctic").

Last month, a group of UK parliamentarians - the Environmental Audit Committee - condemned the rush to exploit the wilderness of the wild north. In their report, the MPs called for the UK government to use its observer status at the Arctic Council, a federation of the eight Arctic nations, to push for a ban on offshore oil exploitation - at least until we have the technology and institutions in place to contain oil spills in the Arctic, and a liability scheme so companies can prove they can bear clean-up costs.

That is good - if their recommendations are heeded. But oil spills are only part of the story. No agreement exists on managing fisheries as they become accessible in the high Arctic, beyond existing territorial waters. The shipping lanes now opening up likewise need rules. The creeping advance of infrastructure on the tundra will fragment one of the planet's last wildernesses. And there is no general agreement to conserve it.

So as the ice melts and the snow disappears, a dangerous political vacuum is opening up. There is a compelling case that the Arctic should be governed in some way. Time is short - already global corporations are moving in, from oil companies like BP and Shell to miners like India's iron giant ArcelorMittal, not to mention Australian company Greenland Minerals chasing rare earth elements.

What form should this new governance take? The British MPs called for the creation of an international environmental sanctuary in the high Arctic, akin to the provisions for the Antarctic. That is a good idea. In an ideal world, such a sanctuary would include every part of the Arctic not already covered by existing settled territorial claims.
That would include the disputed Lomonosov ridge, pursued by both Canada and Russia, which stretches underwater almost to the North Pole. It might also take in the zone covered by the 90-year-old Svalbard Treaty. This places the northerly archipelago under Norwegian management, but allows economic activity by other nations - including, staggeringly, coal mining just a few hundred kilometres from the North Pole.

But even if such a sanctuary were created, it wouldn't be enough to save the Arctic in itself, of course. It's more likely that a bunch of scientists and conservationists would head for the far north and watch helplessly as the ice world melts. Only urgent global action on climate change can halt that.

The Arctic's fate is too important to be left in the hands of the Arctic Council. Unfortunately, it may remain that way. The world is engaged in a rush to grab the region's resources. What is really needed is a rush to accept responsibility for its protection.

Last edited on Tue Dec 4th, 2012 03:41 am by sydneyst

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 Posted: Tue Sep 18th, 2012 11:20 am

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No 2012 Drilling in Arctic by Shell

http://us.greenpeace.org/site/R?i=HtRZOMKlnE2IaQs2NGVJeA


Sydney-

Shell just announced that it was stopping its Arctic drilling program for 2012!

It's great news and a strong reminder of the power that people have when they come together around a single idea.

Shell was set to kickstart the Arctic oil rush. The company had already invested seven years and about $5,000,000,000 to make it happen. But thanks to Mother Nature, its own incompetence and the millions of people who have taken action to save the Arctic, Shell's plans have been put on hold until next year.

This is our opportunity to make sure Shell doesn't get a second chance next year and to save the Arctic once and for all.

Join the millions who have already taken action to save the Arctic and add your name to our petition calling for a global sanctuary in the high Arctic.

http://us.greenpeace.org/site/R?i=Fxwb1rYtMkVbvkqQ-oT_lQ

The importance of this moment can't be overestimated. Other major oil companies are now questioning the logic of Arctic drilling. Only a few days ago, the Norwegian company Statoil said it was going to wait and see how Shell's plan goes before moving forward with its own in the Arctic.

Shell has made it pretty clear that Arctic oil drilling is an expensive and risky mistake.

This is a huge day for our campaign to save the Arctic. We should take a minute and celebrate what we have accomplished together. But the fight isn't over. There is still work to do if we want to permanently protect the Arctic from Big Oil and climate change.

Add your name to our petition today and help us create a global sanctuary in the high Arctic where polar bears and the other living creatures that call it home will be protected.

http://us.greenpeace.org/site/R?i=gsJ1C4Stfb23U4jDVG40vg

Save the Arctic,

Dan Howells
Greenpeace USA Deputy Campaigns Director

Last edited on Tue Sep 18th, 2012 11:21 am by sydneyst

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 Posted: Thu Sep 6th, 2012 05:55 am

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CATASTROPHE IN THE gulf of Mexico: devastation persists
http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/programs/public_lands/energy/dirty_energy_development/oil_and_gas/gulf_oil_spill/index.html


It’s been more than two years since BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig blew up in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 people and unleashing the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history. More than 200 million gallons of oil fouled the ocean and Gulf coastlines, while the Center for Biological Diversity began decisive action to expose illegal activities and lax offshore drilling regulation.
  • A Center study shows that more than 82,000 birds; about 6,000 sea turtles; nearly 26,000 marine mammals, including dolphins; and an unknown, massive number of fish and invertebrates may have been harmed by the spill and its aftermath.
  • The spill oiled more than 1,000 miles of shoreline.
  • More than 2 million gallons of toxic dispersants were sprayed into the Gulf, which may be making waters more toxic for species.
  • Offshore drilling projects are still moving forward — without the implementation of at least 10 regulatory reforms identified by the Center as critical for avoiding another oil-spill catastrophe.
Since our action in the early days of the spill, the Center remains on the front lines of this still-unfolding catastrophe because — despite the massive scope of the Gulf disaster — many of the fundamental dangers associated with offshore drilling remain unaddressed.

We’ve launched 12 lawsuits and ratcheted up the pressure on politicians to reform offshore oversight, halt dangerous drilling, save imperiled species and hold the federal government and BP accountable.



How much oil was spilled?
What areas are affected?

What species are harmed?
Who is responsible?
FAQ – dispersants What if a spill occurs in the Arctic?
Are oil spills inevitable?
How often do oil spills occur?
What can I do?
Read more about dispersants and see the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s oil-impact assessment maps.
piping plover on the Chandeleur Islands.

Oiled gannets and brown pelicans were the first victims discovered by response teams; the goo permeated mangroves and has soaked birds and their eggs. Heavy oil also soaked the Queen Bess Island pelican rookery, a nesting site that has been essential to the recovery of the brown pelican population, and experts worry that the spill could set back the Louisiana state bird’s recovery from near-extinction. The timing of the spill could not have been worse.

Imperiled species including the Atlantic bluefin tuna, Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, loggerhead sea turtles, piping plovers and sperm whales were flocking to the Gulf to spawn, migrate and feed just as the spill happened. For many of them, there was nowhere else to go. And in a disturbing development, large numbers of sharks, fish and other marine animals were seen gathered in shallow inshore waters, believed to be seeking areas where oxygen hasn’t been depleted by oil and the microbes that eat it. Marine animals can die when oxygen levels in the water drop below two parts per million — which was observed even in some inshore areas. Moreover, creatures congregating near the shore risked getting trapped between shore and the oil and depleting oxygen levels in even these refuge areas.

During spill-response efforts, concern arose that sea turtles were in oiled sargassum mats that were lit afire to burn off the oil. During June 2010, the Center initiated litigation on multiple fronts to prevent the injury and death of sea turtles during controlled burn operations, which resulted in requirements for observers to rescue sea turtles from this unnecessary and brutal threat.
 
Read more about threatened species and see our July 23 map of the spill and nearby critical habitat.

Last edited on Thu Sep 6th, 2012 06:00 am by sydneyst

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 Posted: Tue Aug 21st, 2012 01:11 pm

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New ocean index grades world’s oceans at 60 out of 100

By Laura Shin | August 21, 2012, 3:01 AM PDT

http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/science-scope/new-ocean-index-grades-worlds-oceans-at-60-out-of-100/13473/



Ben Halpern et al., N.C.E.A.S. 2012Scores on the Ocean Health Index ranged from 36 (Sierra Leone, in West Africa) to 86 (Jarvis Island in the Pacific).


The world’s oceans provide society with so many benefits: food, recreation, jobs, tourism dollars, plus environmental benefits such as carbon storage. And let’s not forget about pure beauty.

And now finally, we have a way of measuring how healthy oceans are — and how well they can keep giving us these benefits.

Over the last two years, dozens of scientists, policymakers and conservationists in the United States and Canada worked to develop the Ocean Health Index, which they described in a paper published in Nature
.

They then scored oceans all over the world, giving oceans worldwide a score of 60 out of 100. Among the 133 countries with countries, the worst score went to Sierra Leone (36) and the highest to Jarvis island, an uninhabited spot near Hawaii (86). The coastline of the U.S. got a score of 63.

“You can’t manage something like ocean health without actually having a tool to measure it,” Ben Halpern, director of the Center for Marine Assessment and Planning at the University of California, Santa Barbara and one of the leaders of the indexing project, told The New York Times.

Methodology The index focused on 10 benefits oceans provide people, such as food, jobs, carbon sequestration and beauty, plus awarded points for clean waters and biodiversity. Sustainability of its usage was a big factor in a region’s score.

To score each country, a group of more than 30 scientists gathered data from a number of sources: economic data from the United Nations and satellite data on ocean temperature from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. They defined each region by a shoreline on one side and 200 nautical miles out to sea on the other.

Study coauthor Larry Crowder, science director of the Center for Ocean Solutions at Stanford, compared the index to a hospital visit that begins by looking at a patient’s vital signs: ”When someone shows up at the ER, there are things people look at: breathing, heartbeat, pulse,” he told The LA Times.

Previous ways to measuring ocean health focused on the ways humans have damaged the ecosystem, whether by polluting it or driving species to extinction.

  Weighting scores by the values of a country The index doesn’t just give one score. Individual countries can determine which factors are most important to them and weight the score to prioritize them.
For instance, according to the New York Times,
“If a country thinks the best way to treat to the ocean is to preserve it, it can weight conservation factors more heavily in its score. If a country thinks the best use for the ocean is to extract resources from it, it can weight those factors more heavily.”
This index is more focused around various goals that the users of that particular ocean may have: for instance, prioritizing coastal jobs might harm the score for clean water but increase the overall score.

“The old model of trying to save nature by keeping people out simply won’t work,” study coauthor Steven Katona, managing director of the Ocean Health Index for the nonprofit environmental group Conservation International based in Arlington, Va., told The LA Times. “People and nature are not separate anymore.”

Last edited on Tue Aug 21st, 2012 01:19 pm by sydneyst

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 Posted: Fri Aug 17th, 2012 05:07 am

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Shell's Arctic Drilling Plan Delayed Due To Barge Problem, Salazar Says

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/15/salazar-shell-drilling-arctic_n_1777408.html

AP  |  By By DAN JOLING Posted: 08/14/2012 7:17 pm Updated: 08/15/2012 8:31 am



ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Shell Oil's delay in drilling Arctic Ocean exploratory wells off Alaska's northern shores is not due to heavy ice or federal regulators, according to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

The setback to drilling this year during the short open water season, he said, is due to Shell's inability to complete construction on a spill response barge that remains in Washington state.

"If they had got it done, they might be up there today, because the waters in the Chukchi (Sea) around the so-called Burger find are already open," he told reporters Monday. "So it's not a matter of ice. It's a matter of whether Shell has the mechanical capability to be able to comply with the exploration effort that had been approved by the government."

The "curtain of opportunity for 2012" is closing, Salazar said as he wrapped up a three-day visit to the state. Drilling in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas will depend on obtaining Coast Guard certification for the spill response vessel in the next 10 to 20 days, he said.

"We don't have a lot of time," Salazar said. "Whatever activity takes place up there is activity that will have to take place in time to be able to complete it before the conditions ice over."

The containment barge, the Arctic Challenger, will be the company's fourth-line of defense against a spill, along with blowout preventers, shear rams and a capping stack, said Shell Alaska spokesman Curtis Smith. The barge will carry a dome-shape containment system that could be lowered onto a leaking well to funnel oil and gas to a barge.

Shell's goal remains to complete as many wells as possible this year, Smith said. The company also will pursue top holes and mud-line cellars, holes in the sea floor for wellhead equipment such as blowout preventers, that would put the company ahead for 2013 drilling, Smith said.

Shell has made no request to modify its original 2012 drilling proposal, Smith said, but is considering it.

In the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, Salazar said, the federal government overhauled how the country regulates ocean energy. Those standards will be enforced in the Arctic with Shell and other leaseholders.

"I will only say this: I will hold their feet to the fire in terms of making sure that we are doing everything we can to abide by the standards and regulations that we have set and to make sure that the environment in the Arctic seas are protected by their activities," he said.

Shell has invested more than $4 billion in Arctic offshore drilling. Salazar repeated his belief that Shell can drill exploratory wells safely.

"The exploration that takes place, if it does take place, will take place under the most cautious, highest guarded activity ever in the history of any kind of ocean energy development," he said.

Last edited on Fri Aug 17th, 2012 05:10 am by sydneyst

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 Posted: Mon Jul 16th, 2012 11:12 pm

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Whales to Be Protected from Ships around San Francisco Bay
 
Tue, 17 Jul 2012 8:33a.m.



A humpback mother and calf (AAP file)

By Jason Dearen



Read more: http://www.3news.co.nz/Whales-to-be-protected-from-ship-strike-around-San-Francisco-Bay/tabid/1160/articleID/261571/Default.aspx#ixzz20pLKVnn5

http://www.3news.co.nz/Whales-to-be-protected-from-ship-strike-around-San-Francisco-Bay/tabid/1160/articleID/261571/Default.aspx

 
Tue, 17 Jul 2012 8:33a.m. 

http://www.3news.co.nz/Whales-to-be-protected-from-ship-strike-around-San-Francisco-Bay/tabid/1160/articleID/261571/Default.aspx

By Jason Dearen

Scientists studying the carcass of a 14m fin whale that washed up on a beach in the Point Reyes National Seashore last month found the creature's spine and ribs severed, likely from the propeller of one of the huge cargo ships that sail those waters.

There have been many victims of such accidents in recent years as migrating blue, fin and humpback whales have been lured close to California's shore by plentiful krill, the shrimp-like organisms they eat. All three species are endangered.


Now, after a two-year effort spurred by the uptick in accidents, federal maritime officials have approved a plan to protect whales in and around San Francisco Bay. It includes rerouting shipping traffic and establishing better ways to track whale locations.


The changes crafted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, shipping industry representatives, whale researchers and the Coast Guard will likely take effect next year, after a final review by the United Nations International Maritime Organisation.


"In 2010 it really struck home when a female blue whale carrying a calf was found dead on the beach," said Maria Brown, NOAA's superintendent for the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. "And blue whales' numbers are so small - to lose a female and a new whale coming into the population really sent home the message that we needed to look at the whale strike issue."


The shipping industry worked with federal authorities to establish new cargo lanes in one of the world's busiest ports.


"Nobody wants to hit a whale, just like anybody driving down the highway doesn't want to hit anything either," said John Berge, vice president of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, who worked on the plan. "We want to do whatever can be done to mitigate the risk, but do it based on good science and good management strategies as opposed to saying, 'Let's just try this and see if it works.'"


The plan includes establishing a real-time whale monitoring network that would use trained sailors aboard commercial vessels to report when and where they see whales. Once sighted, a warning would be sent to other ship captains, giving them the option to slow down or take a different route.


Captains now must rely on historical data on whale locations. That means ships may slow down unnecessarily in certain area, delaying delivery of goods.


Though voluntary, industry groups like the shipping association and the Chamber of Shipping America, which also took part in the study, believe shippers will support the concept because it could save them money.


"(The) cost of additional training of the bridge crew pales in comparison to the additional cost associated with lost time if you take ships that normally travel at 20 knots and slow them down to 10 knots over a 70 nautical mile vessel traffic lane," said Kathy Metcalf, director of maritime affairs for the chamber.


If successful in San Francisco, the reporting network could become mandatory worldwide through the UN's IMO. That's a goal of those involved in drafting the plan.


"The ships themselves are the most ideal whale sighting platforms to use, and are the lynchpin to the success of this program," said John Calambokidis, an Olympia, Wash.-based scientist who has studied ship strikes off the West Coast for decades and who participated in the effort.


There are believed to be about 2,000 blue whales in the northeast Pacific, and about 10,000 worldwide. The largest animals on Earth, blue whales can grow up to 27m long, still a fraction of the size of cargo ships that can stretch 366m. There also are about 2,000 fin whales in the northeast Pacific, and about 2,500 humpbacks.


While fin and humpback whales have seen gains in population since the 1990s, the number of blues has declined or remained flat.


How many whales die from collisions each year isn't known because most accidents go undocumented and whales that are hit often sink. Whale researchers use population models that factor a species' reproductive rate and its natural mortality to come up with an estimate of how many are likely dying.


In 2010 there were just five confirmed fatal collisions recorded in the area outside San Francisco Bay. But the number of actual strikes of all whale species is likely 10 times higher, Calambokidis said.


PRBO Conservation Science, an environmental research group, conducts annual surveys of whales and other marine life in the sanctuaries around San Francisco Bay. Research director Jaime Jahncke said the number of blue and others whales is four to five times greater than in 2004, increasing the likelihood of ship strikes.


These surveys and other data were used to help map the new shipping lanes by showing vessel owners and federal officials where the whale grounds and shipping lanes were overlapping.


There currently are three shipping lanes coming in and out of San Francisco Bay.


The westbound shipping lane currently ends at the relatively shallow continental shelf, where ships disperse. The new westbound lane would extend three miles past the continental shelf, and contain traffic to a defined area over the whale feeding grounds. The new northbound lane would also be extended miles beyond the shelf, keeping vessels sailing in a straight line for a longer time, rather than allowing them to disperse where the whales congregate.


AP


Last edited on Tue Jul 17th, 2012 12:49 am by sydneyst

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 Posted: Mon Jul 16th, 2012 10:32 pm

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Whale Strikes From Commercial Shipping Off Sri Lanka

Growing Ship Traffic Threatens Blue Whales


http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/03/science/traffic-in-sri-lankas-waters-threatens-blue-whales.html?pagewanted=all

By ERIK OLSEN


MIRISSA, Sri Lanka — In early April, whale watchers off this country’s southern coast were greeted by a disturbing sight: the lifeless body of a 60-foot-long blue whale floating in the water about 12 miles offshore.

The body was swelling rapidly, and suckerfish swarmed across its skin. Even more unsettling was the condition of its tail, which had been nearly severed from the body.
“It was very obviously from a ship’s propeller,” said Mazdak Radjainia, a structural biologist and underwater photographer from the University of Auckland in New Zealand who happened upon the whale. “It must have been a really cruel death, because it was such a massive injury.”

Researchers say ship strikes are a leading cause of death among whales around the globe. Many that are killed are from endangered populations like blue whales that are barely holding on.

The problem is particularly troublesome here in Sri Lanka, where a largely unstudied population of blue whales, possibly numbering in the thousands, has come under increasing pressure from commercial shipping and from a boom in unregulated whale-watching boats.

Because these waters are poorly monitored, scientists do not know for sure whether ship strikes are on the rise. But the whale’s death in April was already the sixth of the year, according to news reports. In one grisly encounter in March, a blue whale was found draped over the bow of a container vessel in the harbor in the capital, Colombo, 90 miles north of this beach resort. Last year, some 20 whale carcasses (not all of them blue whales) were seen around the island, according to Arjan Rajasuriya, a research officer with the National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency in Colombo. It is not known how many of the deaths resulted from ship strikes.

“These strikes likely represent only a portion of the likely true mortality,” said John Calambokidis, a whale researcher in Olympia, Wash., who documents ship strikes off the West Coast of the United States. Because blue whales often sink soon after they are struck, most such deaths go unrecorded, and Dr. Calambokidis says the true number “could be 10 or 20 times” the number seen.

Fifteen miles off the southern coast of Sri Lanka is one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, and whales are known to swim regularly inside them. But some scientists believe that the increase in whale watching could be forcing whales to seek food farther out, pushing them into the big ships’ path.

“I’m afraid the whales are being harassed by the whale-watching boats and that this could affect their movement,” said Asha de Vos, a whale researcher here.

The threat to the whales has some researchers scrambling to learn as much as they can about them and to find a way to protect them.

“Having these whales right off the coast is pretty amazing,” said Ari S. Friedlaender, a research scientist at the Duke University Marine Laboratory. “We know so little about blue whales in general that any place that you have easy access to animals like this, your learning curve is going to be exponential.”

In 2009, Sri Lanka ended a deadly 25-year civil war that largely kept foreign scientists and researchers away from these waters. Several general surveys in the 1970s revealed that there were whales here, but it was not until the 1990s that interest started to grow. Researchers were particularly drawn by the whales’ tendency to stay here year round; other blue whale populations are known to migrate vast distances.

Perhaps no one has studied these whales and promoted their conservation as much as Ms. de Vos.

Three years ago, Ms. de Vos started the Sri Lankan Blue Whale Project, a long-term research program that she hopes will stop the carnage and raise awareness of the whales here. For the last three years, from December to May, she has been photographing the whales and using scientific instruments to better understand their feeding behaviors.

“Clearly, there’s something down there that’s keeping them around. But we need to know where it is and how much,” she said.

In March, Ms. de Vos was helped by a team of researchers from the Duke University Marine Lab who brought along an electronic echo sounder, which uses sound waves to measure the density of prey in the water. For 10 days, she and the team crisscrossed miles of water, taking measurements and finding spots thick with krill.

The data will help scientists better understand where and when the whales are feeding — and, she hopes, persuade the government to shift the shipping lanes farther out to sea.

Ms. de Vos, who was born and raised in Colombo, became a champion of the blue whales after she took a boat ride in 2006 and was astounded by what she saw.

“There were six whales within four square kilometers of where I was, and that was it for me,” she said. “That was a sign, and I knew I wanted to better understand and protect them.”

But her effort is fraught with challenges, including a lack of support from local authorities and the disadvantages of being a young woman in a society dominated by men. “I’m very much on my own around here,” she said. “I don’t have a lot of infrastructure or equipment to do my work.”

She has received some financial support from the University of Western Australia, where she is completing a doctorate in oceanography.

“Her work is really setting the stage for further research on these animals,” said Dr. Friedlaender, who hopes to visit the region next year.

Ms. de Vos notes that with the end of Sri Lanka’s civil war, there is now a major push to increase tourism, and whale watching is a critical part of the government’s development strategy. While the effort may bring much-needed economic development to this poor country, Ms. de Vos is concerned that it may all be happening too fast.

“Right now, whale-watching boats are driving helter-skelter around the animals,” she said. “I don’t want it to explode into something that becomes a harassment for the whales.”

In other countries with established whale-watching industries, laws prohibit getting close to the animals; the United States sets the minimum distance at 100 yards. Ms. de Vos would like to see similar regulations here.

“In this new era of peace, the blue whale is very fast becoming the symbol of our country,” she said. “It would be very sad to harm these animals because of our foolishness.”


 


Last edited on Mon Jul 16th, 2012 11:04 pm by sydneyst

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 Posted: Thu Mar 22nd, 2012 03:51 pm

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Fight Heats Up Over Arctic Drilling

From: Greenpeace
To: Sydney

Date: Tue, Mar 20, 2012 at 4:30 AM
Subject: Save the Arctic

Sydney,

Right this minute a global fleet of Arctic destroyers is speeding towards one of the last unspoiled places on earth.

The ships are part of oil giant Shell's mission to drill the very first wells in the pristine waters off the coast of Alaska. It's insane, but melting sea ice from global warming has made it a reality. If Shell finds oil, the Arctic oil rush will be on.

It's not over yet though. People are pushing back. In New Zealand, Greenpeace activists (including Xena Warrior Princess star Lucy Lawless) occupied a drill ship and prevented it from leaving for the Arctic for several days. And just last week activists occupied two icebreakers in Finland.

...Widespread public opposition here in the US is going to be the key to stopping Shell. The US government is responsible for giving Shell the green light to drill. Greenpeace will be delivering these messages to the company soon. Our goal is to add the names of at least 40,000 Americans to that list before we do. Your message matters.

Shell isn't prepared for a disaster in the Arctic Ocean. No one is. The Arctic Ocean makes the Gulf of Mexico look like a flat, calm lake. With constant high seas, icebergs and massive waves, there's no way to effectively cleanup an oil spill in the Arctic Ocean. Even the head of the US Coast Guard has publicly admitted that his agency would have little chance of dealing with a spill in the frozen Arctic on their own.  

The plan Shell has submitted actually includes using things like shovels, brooms and a sniffer dog called "Tara" to cleanup a potential spill. It would be funny if there wasn't so much at stake.

All Shell cares about is its corporate bottom line. Polar bears and unspoiled natural beauty are just obstacles to making ever greater profits. Together we can create a public obstacle Shell can't overcome -- but it's going to take millions of us.

Add your voice to the growing list of people who will not stay quiet as one of the last wildernesses on earth is destroyed and help save the Arctic.

http://us.greenpeace.org/site/R?i=z9bsS1BLfjCqFcW-aLstDA


Last edited on Thu Mar 22nd, 2012 03:54 pm by sydneyst

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 Posted: Mon Feb 13th, 2012 01:21 pm

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What Is Shipping Industry Doing to Prevent Overboard Containers? 

Rena Disaster Exemplifies the Problem

http://www.theatlantic.com/infocus/2011/10/oil-spill-disaster-on-new-zealand-shoreline/100169/

Oil Spill Disaster on New Zealand Shoreline
Oct 14, 2011


Nine days ago, a Liberian-flagged container ship called the Rena ran aground on Astrolabe Reef, 14 miles offshore from Tauranga Harbor on New Zealand's North Island. In addition to the 2,100 containers aboard, the Rena was carrying 1,700 tons of fuel oil and another 200 tons of diesel fuel. A cracked hull and rough seas have dislodged more than 80 containers and spilled some 300 tons of oil already, fouling Tauranga beaches and reportedly killing some 1,000 birds so far. Salvage teams are racing to offload as much remaining oil as possible while cleanup crews are hard at work, coping with New Zealand's worst environmental disaster in decades. [32 photos]

From Sydney's Thumb:

Over 10,000 containers are lost annually in the world's ocean largely as a result of collisions, high seas, and human error .  Sadly, lack of regulation, inadequate international protocols, callous disregard by shipping companies and insurers contribute to the the loss. Even more disturbing is the lack of salvage and recovery. Both problems only promise to get worse as shipping intensifies in the Arctic and climate change worsens the severity of storms. 

Exacerbating the problem, container ships are getting larger so that when an accident occurs, the number of containers lost can be large.   


The containers themselves contain a vast array or unregulated toxic substances including plastics that contribute to the growing ocean garbage patches that kill marine mammals, fish and turtles.


A sad reality is that this problem, particularly--mitigation and collection of overboard containers--could be easily addressed using existing technologies.  The time is ripe for people who care about oceans and marine animals to demand action on this problem by the IMO and the whales of the shipping industry.  These include the marine insurers.  Among other things, all shipping companies should be required to report immediately all lost containers as well their contents. 

Requirements should be established for prompt retrieval of the containers and and mitigation of the damage created when the containers lose integrity and disgorge their contents.

Further, highest standards should be established for container shipping in hazardous waters such as the Arctic or shipping that occurs in rich marine environments. 

For more on this problem and feasible solutions contact Sydney's Thumb. 

 

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Last edited on Mon Feb 13th, 2012 02:03 pm by sydneyst

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 Posted: Thu May 26th, 2011 12:40 pm

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Danish Commandos Defend Oil Rig Off Greenland from Greenpeace

UPI May 25, 2011 at 7:48 AM

NUUK, Greenland, May 25 (UPI) -- Danish soldiers are said to have boarded an oil rig off the coast of Greenland to prevent Greenpeace activists from interfering with operations.

"Along with a second Greenpeace ship, the Esperanza, we are now in a rather tense standoff with Danish navy commandos protecting the oil drilling operation," wrote Greenpeace's Nick Young from on board the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise.

Greenpeace published articles released under a Freedom of Information Act that suggests London sees an oil spill in the arctic waters as difficult to address.

Scottish energy company Cairn is planning to drill several new wells off the coast of Greenland. The energy company could drill at water depths deeper than the Gulf of Mexico well that failed last year and led to one of the worst oil disasters in the history of the industry.

Cairn said its four-well campaign for 2011 targets various structures in Greenland that have a mean prospective resource potential of 3.2 million barrels of oil equivalent.

Four activists with Greenpeace were arrested by Greenland police in September after severe winds and 18-foot waves led authorities to launch a rescue attempt at a Cairn oil rig in arctic waters.


Read more:

 http://www.upi.com/Business_News/Energy-Resources/2011/05/25/Greenpeace-patrols-Cairn-oil-rig/UPI-34121306324083/#ixzz1NSQlhyQt

Danish commandoes wade into Greenpeace Arctic oil protest

from The Guardian


http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/may/24/danish-commandoes-greenpeace-arctic-oil

May 25,2010

Armed forces called in to prevent environmentalists interfering with Cairn Energy's exploration of Arctic waters



Greenpeace activists protect against Arctic oil exploration by the Leiv Eiriksson rig. Photograph: Markel Redondo/Greenpeace

Armed Danish commandoes are thought to have been landed on a giant oil rig by helicopter to prevent environmentalists interfering with a British oil company's controversial exploration of deep Arctic waters. In a stand-off in the Davis Strait, west of Greenland, the Danish navy has been shadowing the Greenpeace ship Esperanza as it tracked the 53,000 tonne Leiv Eiriksson in iceberg-strewn sea to the site where it plans to search for oil at depths of up to 5,000ft.

The confrontation between Denmark and Greenpeace, which argues that it is dangerous to drill for oil in pristine Arctic waters, follows the decision by Scottish oil company Cairn Energy to explore for oil and gas in Baffin Sea this summer.

Fears that an Arctic spill would be difficult if not impossible to clean up were confirmed in an email exchange between the British Foreign Office and the energy secretary, Chris Huhne, that was obtained by Greenpeace under freedom of information legislation. Officials briefed Huhne, saying: "It is difficult to get assistance in case of pollution problems in such areas, and near impossible to make good damage caused."

They warned of "significant" environmental challenges and the potential for a Gulf of Mexico-type spill. "The impact of such a spill in the Arctic would be proportionately higher due to the lower temperatures and (in winter) lack of sunlight that will inhibit oil eating bacteria (which played a large role in cleaning up the Macondo spill). The Arctic ecosystem is particularly vulnerable, and emergency responses would be slower and harder than the Gulf of Mexico due to the areas remoteness and the difficulty of operating in sub-zero temperatures. A situation compounded by response lag resulting from the vast distances between points of habitations and at certain times, winter ice."

Ruth Davis, chief policy adviser at Greenpeace UK said: "These documents make it clear that companies like Cairn are playing Russian roulette with one of the most important environments in the world. When even the UK government recognises the huge risks associated with the oil drilling in the Arctic then it must be time to halt the rush for oil in one of the most delicate ecosystems in the in the world."

Cairn says it has prepared comprehensive oil spill plans, and has put up a bond of $2bn. Last month it said in a statement: "Wherever it is active, Cairn seeks to operate in a safe and prudent manner. The Greenlandic Bureau of Minerals and Petroleum has established some of the most stringent operating regulations anywhere globally, which mirror those applied in the Norwegian North Sea. Cairn respects the rights of individuals and organisations to express their views in a safe manner."

Seven major oil companies have licenses to explore off Greenland but Cairn will be the only one to begin operations in the short July-October "summer window" when the ice has retreated. Cairn holds 11 licences covering over 80,000 square kilometres and plans to drill four exploratory wells to depths of around 5,000ft, the deepest ever attempted in the Arctic.

Fears that Greenpeace plan to prevent work have been heightened since the group occupied one of Cairn's drilling ships working in shallower Arctic waters last years, and 11 climbers also boarded the Leiv Eiriksson, when it left Turkey for Greenland last month. Greenpeace also tried to stop the rig as it passed Greece and Italy last month but was prevented by storms.

"We are in the Davis Straits doing 10 knots in big seas. There are icebergs everywhere. We're getting very close to where Cairn intends to drill.," said the Greenpeace campaigner Ben Ayliffe aboard the Esperanza.

Denmark is believed to have sent two warships to protect Cairn from Greenpeace, which in turn has sent two ships to monitor Cairn. Greenland is an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark.

Last edited on Thu May 26th, 2011 12:54 pm by sydneyst

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 Posted: Thu May 26th, 2011 12:34 pm

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Greenpeace Standoff with Danish Navy off Greenland

By: Greenpeace

Greenland, 24th May 2011 – Two Greenpeace ships are in a tense stand-off with Danish navy commandos protecting an oil drilling operation in the freezing seas off Greenland.

The environmental campaigners have been involved in a week long search for the giant 53,000 tonne Leiv Eiriksson – the only oil rig scheduled to begin new off-shore arctic drilling operations this year. They found it last night 200 miles west of Greenland under escort by a Danish warship.

Greenpeace today released confidential UK Foreign Office documents, obtained under Freedom of Information, showing that the British government thinks an Arctic oil spill would be all but impossible to clean up.

Greenpeace International oil campaigner Ben Ayliffe is on board the Greenpeace ship Esperanza, within sight of the rig and its escort - a 120 metre Thetis-class NATO warship. He said: "The risks involved in Arctic deep water drilling make working in the Gulf of Mexico look like a walk in the park. An oil spill clean up operation here would be all but impossible, and it's not just us saying that, that's what the British government thinks too. Cairn Energy's operation are reckless in the extreme and should be abandoned, and their rig should leave the Arctic immediately."

The Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise is also on the scene.

The documents, published today on the Greenpeace website, show the UK government's private concerns about the impact of an Arctic spill. In an email exchange British government officials told the UK Energy Secretary Chris Huhne: "It is difficult to get assistance in case of pollution problems in such areas, and near impossible to make good damage caused." Another document reports : "Considerable challenges remain. The most significant of these is environmental – and the possibility of a second Gulf of Mexico type event … The Arctic ecosystem is particularly vulnerable, and emergency responses would be slower and harder than in the Gulf of Mexico due to the area's remoteness and the difficulty of operating in sub-zero temperatures."

Even without an accident Cairn admits its drilling operation will result in at least 9,000 tonnes of toxic chemicals being discharged directly into the waters of the Davis Strait –releasing more red-listed chemicals than all annual oil drilling operations in Norway and Denmark combined.

The area Cairn intends to drill is known as 'Iceberg Alley'. The company intends to tow icebergs out of the rig's path or use water cannons to divert them to avoid a collision as the rig drills for oil. If the icebergs are too large the company has pledged to move the rig itself. Last year a 260km2 ice island broke off the Petermann glacier north of Iceberg Alley. The region is famous for its populations of blue whales, polar bears, seals and migratory birds.

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 Posted: Tue Mar 29th, 2011 02:32 am

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What Are the Resource Sensitivities in the Arctic 

 

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